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Federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against applicants or employees for engaging in "protected activity."  Protected activity includes complaining, either internally or externally (for example to a federal agency like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), about workplace discrimination, harassment, or other violations of employment laws.  For example, it is unlawful to retaliate against an applicant or employee for communicating with a supervisor, manager, or HR about employment discrimination or retaliation, filing or being a witness in a charge, complaint, investigation or lawsuit with a state or federal agency, resisting sexual advances, or requesting an accommodation for a disability or for a religious reason.  Examples of retaliation could include: transferring the employee to a less desirable position, engaging in verbal or physical abuse, issuing discipline (i.e. a Performance Improvement Plan, Counseling, or Final Warning), giving the employee a performance evaluation that is lower than it otherwise would be, providing less monetary compensation to the employee, and termination.  However, not all actions taken by an employer rise to the level of being considered an adverse employment action necessary to maintain a claim of retaliation. 


Engaging in protected activity does not shield an employee from all discipline.  Employers can discipline or terminate an employee if there was a non-retaliatory reason for the adverse employment action.  For example, if an employee files a claim of race discrimination with HR, and then proceeds to steal money from his or her employer, the employee can still be terminated for stealing money pursuant to the employer's policies.  

Retaliation complaints make up about 45% of complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Retaliation can take on many forms.  It is important that employees oppose unlawful employment actions in an appropriate manner and that employers in turn respond and investigate in an appropriate manner.  The Lee Law Firm has experience guiding employees, applicants, and employers through retaliation claims as well as litigating such claims.  If you are an employee, applicant, or employer in need of an attorney, please contact us for a free attorney consultation.  

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