The Basics of Workplace Retaliation

The Basics of Workplace Retaliation

May, 2021

Both federal and state laws protect workers from certain types of workplace retaliation. These laws make it unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees when they exercise certain rights. Employees may exercise their rights such as filing a discrimination or sexual harassment claim, filing for benefits such as workers’ compensation, or requesting reasonable accommodations for a disability. Federal and Ohio laws largely mirror each other, but there are also differences of which employees should be aware.

Federal and State Anti-Retaliation Laws

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, retaliation is the most common allegation of discrimination in the workplace. Equal opportunity laws make it unlawful for employers to punish employment candidates or employees for complaining about discrimination against them or other employees based on immutable characteristics such as race, religion, sex, pregnancy, age, and so on. When an employee takes certain actions, such as filing a discrimination claim, it is considered a protected activity, which makes it unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees for it. Employees do not need to necessarily make formal complaints but should follow whatever policy their company has in place for reporting discrimination or sexual harassment.

Ohio also has anti-retaliation laws. Under Ohio’s Revised Code 4112.02(1), employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who engage in a protected activity, such as filing a discrimination claim with an employer or outside agency. While this may seem as though Ohio law is identical to federal law, that is not the case. A new law was recently passed providing employees with 2 years to file a claim with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and/or to file a lawsuit in state court. Unlike federal law, Ohio law does not award attorneys’ fees and costs for employees who prevail in lawsuits.

Common Retaliatory Actions

Employers may know the actions they take could be considered retaliatory and against the law, and so, they do it very subtly. Employees should be aware of some of the actions that may be considered retaliatory so that they know if an unlawful retaliation may have occurred. Some of the most common retaliatory acts are as follows:

  • Employers treat employees who did not engage in a protected activity more favorably in the material terms of employment than those who did,
  • Employers threaten an employee with termination or disciplinary action, or makes disapproving comments about an employee engaging in protected conduct,
  • Employees take punitive action against employees after they engage in a protected activated, such as demoting them or cutting their hours, and
  • The decisions employers make, such as when to hire, promote, or discipline an employee are not supported by evidence or facts and in close proximity to the time the employee engaged in protected activity.

Above are just a few of the ways in which employers may retaliate against employees. If an employee thinks that he or she is being treated less favorably than others soon after engaging in a protected activity, the employee should speak to an employment attorney who can advise regarding the law and evaluate a potential case.

Call Our Ohio Employment Lawyers Now

If you feel as though your employer has retaliated against you after you engaged in a protected activity, our Columbus employment lawyers are here to help. At Marshall & Forman, LLC, our knowledgeable attorneys can advise regarding the legality of your employer’s actions and the remedies that may be available to you. Call us today or contact us online to schedule a consultation and to learn more about how we can help with evaluating a potential case.