What Is Retaliation?

Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for exercising their rights or reporting harmful or illegal practices in their organization.

What Are Examples of Retaliation?

Retaliation includes but is not limited to:

What Is the Difference between Retribution and Retaliation?

Both retaliation and retribution involve punishing someone in response to their prior “wrongdoing,” but the intentions behind the punishment differ. While retaliation is motivated by personal reasons, including revenge, retribution stems from a desire to achieve justice.

For example, a manager firing an employee for reporting sexual harassment to protect their reputation is retaliation.

However, the executive team’s decision to terminate the manager for sexually harassing the employee would be retribution.

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Is Retaliation Always Illegal?

In short, no. Consequences may occur for other reasons, and an employee falsely claiming retaliation is not immune to lawful dismissal. Retaliation is only illegal when employers punish employees for actions that are protected by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) laws such as:

Here are some examples of when employers cannot discipline employees, as these are legally protected actions:

Illegal Retaliation Example

Let’s say Mary complains about a pay disparity between herself and her male colleague for the same role. As a result, her manager demotes her.

Her employer’s retaliation was unlawful because Mary had reason to believe she was being discriminated against. Moreover, Mary’s claim is protected under the EEOC, specifically, the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Imagine an employee, Judy, filed a false sexual harassment complaint to obtain her colleague’s (the alleged perpetrator) position. In this case, the employer has the right to take action and lawfully terminate Judy.

Can an Employer Fire an Employee as Retaliation?

Yes, an employer can fire an employee as retaliation. But whether that termination is legal or illegal must be evaluated.

As illustrated above, it would only be wrongful termination if the employee’s complaint was protected by EEOC laws.

Can an Employer Fire a Witness for Retaliation?

According to the EEOC, employers cannot punish an employee for serving as a witness in an EEOC complaint.

What Is the Penalty for Retaliation?

If an employer is found guilty of retaliation, they must provide restitution to the employee which may include:

Included. Supported. Retained.

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