Signs that you may be the victim of illegal retaliation at work

You have the right to feel safe at work. This not only applies to physical safety but mental and emotional health as well.

Dealing with conflict in the workplace can make your job stressful. In addition to issues like discrimination and harassment, you may also worry about what will happen if you report inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

The law encourages employees to report workplace wrongdoings, such as harassment. When you file a workplace complaint, the law affords certain protections.  Unfortunately, some employers may try and work outside the law in pressuring you to either drop your complaint or leave. Retaliation may come in many forms, but regardless of how it occurs, it is illegal.

In some cases, the upper divisions of a company will make an employee feel safe and value their feedback. In other instances, the situation can become hostile, but retaliation can also seem more discreet.

These are some signs that you are a victim of retaliation in your workplace.

Sudden demotion

Laws exist to stop an employer from dismissing you for filing a valid harassment complaint. However, some employers may resort to intimidation in various underhanded forms. One is by demoting you, giving you a less desirable position. Note that if this occurs, the company must have clear evidence that your performance and not your complaint is the reason for the demotion.

Unexplained transfer

Another way your employer may get back at you is by transferring you from one department to another. Perhaps the new position is equitable in salary but is outside of your skillset. This action may prove an attempt to set you up to fail, allowing the company to fire you within the parameters of the law.

Reduced hours

Hitting someone in the wallet is a surefire way to retaliate. When a supervisor informs a worker of a reduction in hours, it equates to a pay cut. This action is a ploy to punish a complaining employee through financial hardship.

An employer who intimidates someone into quitting will never admit to it. Workplace retaliation is illegal, and as such, a company that condones it may face further repercussions in a courtroom.

Change in duties

Depending on your situation, your job duties or location may change to protect you from further conflict in the workplace. However, the change should not be punitive.

Signs a change in duties could be retaliation are situations, such as:

  • Less desirable work location
  • Demotion in tasks or title
  • Less desirable work hours

Changes like these can mean that your employer is trying to make the workplace uncomfortable for you because of your report.

Sometimes retaliation is more subtle

Retaliation is not always simple to spot. In many cases, employers know the obvious methods of retaliation. They may make your job uncomfortable or difficult to leave in less obvious ways, such as:

  • Refusing promotions for vague reasons
  • Opposition when looking for a new job
  • Exclusion from workplace functions
  • Hostile comments
  • Increased scrutiny of job performance

Often, it is not a matter of whether someone in your workplace intended to retaliate; typically, it is whether the action feels like retaliation to you. If you encounter these situations after reporting discrimination or harassment in the workplace, it is critical to talk to an experienced professional about what to do next.