Protections for Employees Who Report Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination is commonplace but as an employee you should not be afraid to report workplace discrimination. To "discriminate" against someone means for some reason to treat that person differently, or less favorably. Discrimination can take place while you are at work, school or in a public place, such as a mall or subway station.

There are laws and rules created to protect employees which allow them to file a complaint if they have been subjected to discrimination and if their employer fails to correct it. You can be compensated by your employer if it is found you have been subjected to unlawful discrimination.

Discrimination that Can Be Reported

The Employment Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for protecting employees from employment discrimination due to a number of different characteristics which include race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (40 or older), or genetic information.

It also protects an employee from being harassed by people in his or her workplace which include managers and co-workers because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (40 or older), or genetic information

If you know you have been treated unfavorably by your employer due to a specific characteristic you possess you may be entitled to compensation. Before you file a complaint with your employer you should make sure you have kept a written record of all the incidences of discrimination you have suffered. You can use this as evidence. If your employer fails to correct the discrimination you have suffered, you may file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).

There are times when your employer may feel angry because you have filed a complaint about how the business is run. A common reaction is to retaliate which could even mean firing you.  It is illegal for an employer to retaliate because an employee has taken some action when exerting his or her rights in the workplace.

Protection from Retaliation

Retaliation is often one of the reasons for discrimination in the workplace but you as an employee is allowed to assert your rights if your employer tries to retaliate after you have filed a complaint about an activity your employer has been involved in. It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against applicants or employees in the circumstances below:

  • filing or being a witness in an EEOC charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit;
  • communicating with a manager or supervisor about employment discrimination, including being harassed;
  • responding to questions asked during an employer investigation of alleged harassment;
  • refusing to participate in any activity that would result in discrimination taking place;
  • refusing to accept sexual advances, or intervening to protect others from this activity;
  • requesting accommodation for a disability or for a religious belief;
  • asking managers or co-workers about salaries so as to reveal potentially discriminatory wages practice.

When participating in the complaint’s process an employee is protected from retaliation under all circumstances. An employer could be accused of retaliation if it acts in response to you filing a complaint with the EEOC and does any of the following:

  • reprimand you;
  • give a performance evaluation that is not as high as you deserve;  
  • transfer the you to a position that is less desirable;
  • verbally or physically abuse you;
  • threaten to report you to authorities including reporting immigration
  • status or contacting the police;
  • boost up scrutiny of you;
  • spread false rumors about you;
  • treat one of your family member’s negatively by, for example, canceling a contract that had been created for your spouse;
  • deliberately creating conflict between you the employee and your family life by altering work schedules.

How Might You Know If Your Employer is Retaliating Against You?

If after you have filed a complaint about something that your employer did which it shouldn’t have done such as allow sexual harassment to take place in your workplace and your employer demoted you, it is quite clear why you were demoted. The first thing you should do is talk to your employer’s HR to find out why you were demoted.

If your employer won’t or can't give you a reasonable explanation, you should remind your employer that it was only after you had lodged a complaint about sexual harassment and then you were demoted immediately.

If you get no response the next move is to take your concerns to the EEOC or your state's fair employment agency. You will need to show there is a link between your complaint and your employer's retaliatory behavior.

The more evidence you can get to support your claim, the better the outcome. If you were complaining about sexual harassment in your workplace it helps if you have all the details of the harassment from reliable witnesses. You need to be able to prove that your demoting was due to you filing a complaint.

Next Steps

If you have been a victim of discrimination in the workplace or you have proof that your employer retaliated when you filed a complaint you should have an attorney on your side. An employment attorney can help those who have been the subject of discrimination or retaliation by their employers.

Get a Free Case Evaluation today!

Additional Resources