According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), retaliation is the most common issue alleged by federal employees and the most common discrimination finding in federal sector cases. Retaliation occurs when an employer takes a materially adverse action against an applicant, former employee, or current employee after they have asserted their rights as protected under Equal Employment Opportunity laws (e.g., Title VII, ADA, ADEA).
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Aside from prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, and genetic information, EEO laws also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who engage in protected activity to challenge a perceived violation of any of those laws. This means that it is unlawful for an employer to punish an applicant or employee for the protected activity if the applicant or employee took measures in response to a perceived infringement of employee rights.
Protected activity includes:
- filing (or threatening to file) a complaint about alleged discrimination against oneself or others;
- providing information for an EEOC investigation;
- participating in an EEOC proceeding
- refusing to obey an order reasonably believed to be discriminatory or otherwise in violation of an EEO law;
- advising an employer of EEO compliance;
- resisting sexual advances or intervening to protect others;
- requesting reasonable accommodation for a disability or religion;
- talking to coworkers to gather evidence for a potential employee rights claim.
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Actions taken by an employer against an employee must be “materially adverse” to qualify as retaliation. To be materially adverse, the action would discourage a reasonable person from engaging in protected activity. Examples of employer decisions that could qualify as retaliatory (if made in response to protected activity) include: denial of promotion, non-hire, denial of benefits, demotion, suspension, discharge, or other actions that could be considered discriminatory. Retaliation can be an employer action that is work-related, one that has no substantial effect on work, or even something that takes place exclusively outside of work, as long as it would deter a reasonable person from taking part in “protected activity” under an EEO law.
To secure the right of its citizens to be free from discrimination, the state of Florida enforces the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) as a state-specific equivalent to Title VII’s federal regulations. In addition, the Florida Commission on Human Rights (FCHR) functions much like the EEOC for the benefit of Florida citizens. If you believe you have been the target of retaliation in your workplace, it is best to consult with an attorney to determine what protections apply to you and if you have been illegally discriminated against.
If you believe you have been the victim of retaliation and would like to have a free consultation about your case, call Florin Roebig at (727) 786-5000 or visit our contact page here.