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How to Deal With Employment Retaliation

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Retaliation is negative behavior toward an employee who reported, or was involved in, a discrimination complaint against the employer. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, retaliation may take many forms and includes demotion, termination and harassment. Federal and state laws prohibit employers from retaliating against a worker. If you're experiencing retaliatory behavior, you have the right to take action against your employer.

Document the Actions

Document evidence that supports your claim of retaliation as thoroughly as possible. Keep written records of events, including what happened, who was present, the location, date and time. When you review the retaliatory behavior, think about past events that might discredit the acts and locate any supporting proof. For example, if your supervisor is yelling at you about your work on a project, but praised you for it before the event that triggered the retaliatory acts, look for dated evidence of the praise, such as a memo.

Speak Up

Arrange a meeting with your human resources department or boss, whoever you feel more comfortable with, to discuss the motivation behind negative actions toward you. Before you attend, make a list of the specific acts and behaviors you're concerned about so you cover all your bases. Ask direct questions regarding the actions or behaviors troubling you. For example, if you've been moved to a new shift, ask for the reason behind the change. If you can't get answers you're satisfied with, explain you believe you're being retaliated against and it must stop. Point out specific changes in your treatment at work and note they occurred after the complaint event.

File a Complaint

You may file a complaint with the EEOC if your employer won't stop retaliating against you. The commission enforces federal anti-discrimination laws that include retaliation as a prohibited act. You can file a complaint with your state's fair employment practice agency as well if available. Some state fair employment agencies automatically file the complaint with the EEOC if the matter falls under federal law and they participate in the EEOC's sharing agreement.


You may want to consider looking for another job if the behavior is causing you a lot of stress and making the workplace hostile. You can still pursue a retaliation complaint and file a lawsuit against the employer even if you leave the job, but you must make sure you have the evidence you need before you exit the company. Since retaliation is more commonly expected immediately after you reported an event, you'll have a better chance proving your case if the problems started immediately after the event and not months later.