What is retaliation in the workplace? Most employees in the workplace face a lot of challenges, especially from their employers. Some of the challenges may include harassment, unfair treatment, and discrimination. Not that law doesn’t exist to protect such employees from the deeds of the managers. There’s a law in place, but most employers don’t see this as a form of retaliation. For example, suppose an employee makes a harassment complaint in the workplace investigation. In that case, they shouldn’t be punished. But you find some employers demoting or firing those employees. Keep reading this blog post to understand what retaliation is in the workplace, what can contribute to workplace retaliation (both employees’ and managers’ deeds), and various ways to prevent workplace retaliation.
What is Retaliation in the Workplace?
Retaliation is a term used to refer to an instance where an employee faces punishment for engaging in a legally protected activity. The various ways a manager can use to retaliate include firing, demotion, salary reduction, and harmful job actions, to highlight but a few.
It’s without a doubt that a manager’s action can be harmful, let’s say, firing an employee. But other times, it’s not. The circumstance matters (according to the U.S. Supreme Court).
Moreover, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOP) views the act of filing a claim as a protected activity. So, of course, it’s a protected activity. But when a manager’s action deters a person from making a specific complaint, that becomes an illegal retaliation.
Some of the manager’s responses considered by EEOC as workplace retaliation include:
- Limiting employees’ working hours.
- making employees’ work environment conducive.
- Not allowing or giving employees a chance for promotion.
- Not allowing employees to attend certain business events.
- Transferring employees to different workstations.
- Negative performance review.
In some scenarios, acts of employment retaliation may go unnoticed by the management while it continues to affect employees. The following are the signs of subtle workplace retaliation:
- Excessive and inappropriate micromanagement of employees.
- Denying the employees a chance to engage in group activities.
- Spreading false rumors about employees.
Workplace Retaliation Without a Formal Complaint
Workplace retaliation is unacceptable, but it continues to occur despite the presence of employers’ rules, policies, or manuals. For instance, if an employee wants to report an incident to the manager, this can lead to retaliation. The act of retaliation is often by supervisors and managers, and surprisingly enough, it can also be shown by the employers themselves.
It’s not common for employees to retaliate against each other. Moreover, the management can show acts of retaliation against employees in an attempt to intimidate them, not to file a formal complaint.
Employees’ Actions that are subject to Workplace Retaliation
- Requesting for disability accommodation.
- Refusing to comply with a given job order can result in physical or sexual harassment.
- Reporting an act of sexual harassment to the manager.
- Intervening to protect a fellow worker from harassment.
- Going to the company’s owner to report a workplace incident without involving a supervisor or a manager.
Preventing Workplace Retaliation
Prevention is better than cure, as the saying goes. However, you can take preventive measures to keep retaliation in your Workplace at bay. Ways of preventing workplace retaliation include:
1. Training Staff Members on Guidelines
Training is very crucial to the well-being of any prevention measures. After handing over reviews of guidelines to employees, be sure to top it up with training so that they understand what is required of them. This means holding a session for employees that defines workplace retaliation, such as a workshop.
Another critical aspect of training involves human resource management or staff. For example, teach and train your staff on matters of handling retaliation claims.
Be sure to back up all the pieces of training with an official document showing clearly that they were held. Then ask every staff member to sign off and date the record to prove that they have undergone the training sessions and have understood the information in the papers. Finally, the document can be kept for future reference if there’s retaliation.
2. Create Policies that Outline the Company’s Retaliation Guidelines
Employees can be well-informed of the company’s retaliation definition by clearly outlining it in a manual or policy. Also, ensure you educate and inform them. In addition, in the employees’ handbook, you can go the extra mile to add a section explaining in detail what retaliation is in the Workplace and enforce anti-harassment rules.
If this is well understood, it creates employee confidence when they want to file a claim to human resources concerning harassment.
3. Hold Disciplinary Meetings with Employees and Report them to the Human Resource
A typical manager or supervisor can only discipline an employee with a valid reason. But before disciplining the in-situation employee, the manager should first report the meeting with the human resource before involving the employee. Then, ask the supervisor to provide documentation of reasons for holding the discussion and let the human resource approve it. This plays a crucial role in ensuring that the actions taken are appropriate.
4. Keep your Employees’ Details (Information) Confidential
In any case, if an employee has a complaint about a particular supervisor or, to some extent, the company’s leaders, encourage them to consult with the human resource staff first. The team should ensure that the information provided by the employee during the meeting remains private and confidential.
5. Document and Keep Files of each Meeting or Warning
Each disciplinary and warning meeting should be documented to prove that warnings were issued before any actions were taken. Supervisors should also gather files or emails to confirm that the employees showed inappropriate behavior. Keeping these files and those that justify your company leaders’ actions can be an effective method of maintaining workplace retaliation at bay.
Employees should consult with an employment lawyer if they feel they have been subjected to retaliation. For those who have been fired and lost vast sums of wages, working hand in hand with a lawyer can be the only way out. The lawyer will be able to determine the weight of the case and not forget about compensation.