Aug 04, 2016
By Peter Friedmann

All employees are protected from workplace retaliation.  Retaliation is defined as taking an “adverse action” against an employee who engages in “protected activity.”  What does this mean?  An adverse action includes things like termination, demotion, changes in job duties, assignment to a different shift and a variety of others.  The definition of adverse action is always changing so this list is not complete and does not include all examples of adverse actions that may be taken against an employee.  If an adverse action is taken against an employee who has engaged in protected activity, a claim for retaliation may exist.  You may contact one of our Columbus, Ohio retaliation attorneys to discuss your circumstances.

“Protected activity” occurs when an employee either complains or opposes discrimination (by filing an EEOC Charge for example) or participates in some kind of discrimination proceeding, like an investigation, as a witness or otherwise.  It is important to note that even if you oppose what you reasonably believe to be discriminatory behavior, but it turns out not to be, you are also protected from retaliation.  The key is that your belief, as an employee, must have been reasonable and you must have made the complaint in good faith.  This is something our Ohio retaliation lawyers can help you determine.

Some examples of protected activity include:

  • Filing an EEOC Charge
  • Participating in the investigation of another employee who files an EEOC Charge
  • Cooperating with an internal investigation regarding allegations of discrimination
  • Serving as a witness in hearing/proceeding of any kind regarding allegations of discrimination

How do I know if my boss or employer has retaliated against me?  

It can be difficult to determine whether you’ve been retaliated against but sometimes it is obvious.  For example, if the person you’ve complained about becomes aware of and confronts you about it, this can be deemed retaliatory.  There will be other situations where you may just notice subtle behavior.  If the person you complained about becomes aware of it and begins harassing you because of it, this is an example of retaliation.  Keep in mind, only actions that are actually deemed “adverse” as described above are considered retaliatory under the law.

Examples of Retaliation Scenarios

1) If I am a male employee and I complain about what I believe to be a pay disparity between male and female employees, am I protected from retaliation even though I am not complaining about my own compensation?

A: Yes.  As long as you have a reasonable belief that female employees are paid less than male employees, you may question the practice and you will be protected from retaliation for doing so.  Discrimination does not have to be directed at you in order for you to oppose it.

2) I overheard a co-worker make a derogatory, racist remark to another co-worker but did not report it myself.  Human Resources launched an investigation and interviewed me.  I answered truthfully regarding what I heard.  Am I protected?

A: Yes.  Again, the discrimination does not need to be directed toward you for you to oppose it.  Participating in an investigation regarding allegations of discrimination is protected activity and you are protected from retaliation.

3) I am still employed but I feel I was discriminated against, so I filed an EEOC Charge.  My employer was notified of my filing of the Charge and now my boss treats me terribly.  Am I protected?

A: Maybe.  It depends on the type of conduct your boss is engaging in.  Even if it is not considered retaliation, an experienced lawyer can act on your behalf to address the conduct and

If you have questions about whether you are experiencing retaliation because you participated in protected activity, call our Ohio employment lawyers and we can help you.  For more information related to retaliation claims generally, please contact the Ohio Employment Lawyers at The Friedmann Firm.