Many employees who feel mistreated fear speaking up against these actions due to the possibility of workplace retaliation. While a demotion or termination might be the most dramatic workplace retaliation, there are numerous examples that are more insidious or hidden from plain view.
Fortunately, there are several legal protections in place to guard an employee from retaliation in the workplace. Workers have the right to speak out about sexual harassment, discrimination or other forms of mistreatment. Unfortunately, it is often a challenge to link the alleged retaliation to the inciting event. There are several examples of retaliation that are less obvious than others, including:
- Being intentionally overlooked: Whether it is being excluded from a meeting or left off the invitation for a work activity, an employee who is intentionally left out of work functions could be experiencing a form of retaliation.
- Nonverbal communication: While difficult to characterize, many employees feel they receive a “cold shoulder” or “silent treatment” after filing a claim against the employer.
- Verbal-only communication: While an email conversation might be easy to track, some employees experience verbal abuse coming from their co-workers or managers after filing a claim.
- Missing job opportunities: Retaliation might not always be the addition of a negative action, but the removal of a positive one. An employee who misses out on a promotion or a sought-after department transfer for no reason could be experiencing retaliatory actions.
- Erroneous performance reviews: A worker who has consistently achieved or exceeded company metrics all year prior to filing a claim could be experiencing retaliation if they notice a sudden drop in scores. If a performance review or a performance improvement plan stem from negative emotions over a workplace claim, it might be retaliation.
Employees who feel they are the victims of mistreatment in the workplace should not fear retaliation in any form. From the obvious risk of job loss or demotion to the hidden risks of exclusion or inaccurate performance reviews, numerous laws and regulations protect employees from suffering from retaliation in the workplace.