Illegal Retaliation In Employment

As noted elsewhere, the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age (over 40), and military status, among other legally protected characteristics. Beyond these rights, though, the law also prohibits retaliation against individuals who invoke or help others invoke those protections.

Not every adverse action amounts to legal retaliation, of course. Employers cannot, however, take adverse actions -- such as termination, demotion, or cuts in pay or hours -- against employees who invoke the protections of the federal employment laws or who help other employees do so. Thus, an employee who complies with the company's anti-harassment policy by making a report of sexual harassment cannot suffer adverse action for the report. Similarly, an employee who files a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a lawsuit (or who has done so in the past) cannot be subjected to termination or inferior work conditions. Additionally, it is illegal for an employer to take adverse action against an employee who helps another employee invoke employment law protections, such as by supporting the complaining employee's claims or testifying on that employee's behalf. Employees who are subjected to illegal retaliation may be entitled to damages for their lost pay, emotional distress and/or pain and suffering, and punitive damages.

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