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If your employer has subjected you to an adverse employment action because you complained about sexual harassment or discrimination, you likely have a valid workplace retaliation claim. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), retaliation cases are the most common among discrimination cases filed by federal employees. Some, but not all, retaliation against employees in the workplace is protected. To establish that you were retaliated against, you have to prove three things: that you engaged in a protected activity, that your employer took a materially adverse employment action against you that impacted the terms or conditions of your employment, and that they took that action because you engaged in the protected activity. If you believe that you have been retaliated against, you need an experienced workplace retaliation lawyer by your side to help you prove your claim and get the remedy you deserve.

What Is Workplace Retaliation, and Why Is It Protected?

Retaliation occurs when you, as an employee, are subjected to an adverse employment action because you engaged in a protected activity. For example, you were fired, demoted, or nit-picked as a result of filing a discrimination complaint. One reason retaliation is prohibited is to give individuals the confidence to speak out about discrimination and participate in investigations and proceedings regarding discrimination . If retaliation was not prohibited, many employees would be unwilling to discuss workplace discrimination or assist with discrimination investigations.

Retaliation law involves examining the behavior of management towards employees after the initial discrimination allegation. In order to prove a workplace retaliation claim, the employee must show that management’s actions would deter a reasonable person from opposing discrimination or taking part in a discrimination complaint process.

Proving Retaliation

To prevail on your workplace retaliation claim, you must prove three elements.

1. The Employee Engaged in a Protected Activity

There are state and federal laws that protect employees while engaging in certain protected activities. These laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and many more. These laws make it illegal for employers to retaliate against their employees when they take part in two types of protected activities.


If an employee opposes any illegal act (including discrimination, harassment, and retaliation), that employee is engaging in a protected activity. This includes employees who refuse to participate in illegal acts, employees who complain about discrimination or sexual harassment, and those who participate in investigations as witnesses.


If an employee files a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or other agency, helps with an investigation, or takes part as a witness, they are engaging in a protected activity.

2. The Employee Experiences an Adverse Action

If an employer takes an adverse action against an employee, it may be considered workplace retaliation if such an action would deter a reasonable employee from participating in a protected activity.

3. Causation

In order to prove workplace retaliation, the employee must show how their engagement in a protected activity is connected to the adverse action they suffered. Causation can be difficult to prove without direct evidence such as an employer admitting to it or a key witness who was privy to the events surrounding the retaliation. An experienced workplace retaliation attorney is vital to help you prove that your participation in a protected activity caused your employer to take an adverse action against you.

Your workplace retaliation lawyer can help find evidence of causation. This can include showing that the adverse action came right after the discrimination complaint. You must also be able to show that your employer knew that you engaged in a protected activity.


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Examples of Retaliation in the Workplace:

Being Fired, Demoted, or Written-Up

This can happen long after the initial protected activity occurred. Additionally, if your employer makes your workplace conditions so toxic that you are forced to quit, they can still be liable for retaliation for you leaving your job.

Reduction in Salary and/or Benefits

This can include reductions in your hourly wage, salary, commissions, paid time off, sick leave, and ability to earn overtime.

Negative Change in Work Schedule

This can include having no consistency in your schedule, requiring mandatory weekend or evening hours, or changing the length of your shifts.

Transfer or Reassignment

If you are moved to a less desirable location or given a more difficult job without the resources to perform it, you may have been retaliated against.

Denial of Promotion or Raise 

This can negatively impact your career and be a form of retaliation for speaking out.

Formal Discipline 

This can include warnings, suspensions, or involuntary leave.

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Our Workplace Retaliation Lawyers Can Help

If you have been retaliated against after exposing your employer’s discrimination, you need help proving your case. We will work to determine whether you were engaged in a protected activity, whether your employer took an adverse employment action against you, and whether they did so because you engaged in a protected activity. Employment law can be complicated, so if you are the victim of workplace retaliation, you need to consult with a lawyer immediately to determine whether you have a case, and to make sure that you meet all the filing deadlines. Your workplace retaliation lawyer will fight to get you the appropriate remedy, whether that’s reinstatement at your job or monetary damages. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Frequently (un)asked questions

In order to prove that a company took retaliatory action against you, you will need to prove the following:

  • You engaged in a protected activity (such as reporting illegal activities or speaking with Human Resources about harassment)
  • In response, your employer took adverse action against you (firing you, demoting you, withholding a promotion, etc.)
  • You suffered damage as a result (lost wages, humiliation, etc.)

If you believe your company took retaliatory action against you, you may have the opportunity to pursue a workplace retaliation lawsuit, but there are actions you need to take first, which may include filing a charge of retaliation with the EEOC. A workplace retaliation lawyer will be able to help make sure you follow the necessary steps after facing retaliatory action from an employer.

Any negative action an employer takes against an employee in response to the employee reporting or otherwise standing up for themselves or others at their workplace could potentially be considered as workplace retaliation. The following actions could be considered workplace retaliation if they are taken in response to an employee taking a protected action:

  • Firing the employee
  • Demoting the employee
  • Reducing the employee’s hours or giving them less desirable shifts
  • Preventing the employee from promotion
Top-Rated Employee Rights Lawyer

Top-Rated Employee Rights Lawyer

After experiencing any type of harassment or discrimination in the workplace, it’s difficult to know where to turn, to know who you can trust. At the Malk Law Firm, we have successfully represented employees against large and small companies (all over California and Washington) in various labor and employment-related lawsuits.

Trust our team to fight for your rights in the workplace. Our workplace retaliation lawyer is available for a consultation to discuss your options. Please reach out today to tell us about your case.

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