Employees who report or object to illegal activities in the workplace are often referred to as whistleblowers. Whether speaking out against fraud, discrimination, harassment or a wide range of other illegal conduct in the workplace, whistleblowers sometimes lose their jobs or suffer other negative consequences at work as a result of standing up for what they know is right. This is known as employment retaliation, and in many cases it is a violation of both federal law and Minnesota statute.
What does workplace retaliation look like?
Some cases of illegal employment retaliation are cut and dried. For example, if an employee is fired in direct response to reporting an incident of sexual harassment in the workplace, that is likely to be a clear-cut case of retaliation. Oftentimes, however, real-life examples of retaliation can be more subtle and harder to prove or even detect.
Retaliation often comes in the form of firing a worker for engaging in protected conduct, such as reporting discrimination or illegal activity, but other negative employment actions can also form the basis of a retaliation claim. In addition to termination of employment, other examples of illegal retaliation that an employee may experience include:
- Demotion or denial of promotion
- Threats or harassment
- Reduction of work hours
- Being moved to a less desirable shift
- Pay reduction or loss of benefits
Because employers are often aware that their retaliatory actions are illegal, they will sometimes go to great lengths to disguise the true reasons behind a termination or other negative employment action motivated by a worker’s protected activity.
For example, an employer may pretend to be dissatisfied with a worker’s performance for a period of time and give him or her negative reviews in an effort to make it appear as though there is a legitimate reason to take action against the worker. Sometimes, the actual retaliatory act may occur weeks or even months after the event that motivated it.
Get legal help if it happens to you
Minnesota workers who have lost their jobs or experienced other setbacks at work because of speaking out against something illegal can protect their rights and legal options by seeking help from an attorney with experience in employment law. If this has happened to you or someone in your family, contact the law offices of Villaume & Schiek, P.A., to discuss your situation and find out about your legal options.