Discrimination based on race or sex used to be the leading types of claims submitted by employees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retaliation came in third, representing 24 percent of complaints in 1998, but some employers in California and around the country appear to be ramping up their retaliatory acts. In 2015, 45 percent of cases handled by the EEOC involved retaliation.
Retaliation occurs when an employer takes actions that have a negative material impact on the employee. This action must also be in response to a lawfully protected activity engaged in by the employee. Because accusations of punishment from employers have risen so dramatically, the EEOC has issued more guiding documents to enable employers to avoid illegal actions. New resources include a list of practices that could prevent retaliation, a question-and-answer document and a Small Business Fact Sheet.
Updated guidelines and definitions from the EEOC also seek to establish that the very act of an employee filing a claim would be legally protected from retaliation even if the claim is frivolous. Courts, however, tend to rule against complaints that have no factual support.
Violations of employee rights can take many forms such as unpaid overtime, workplace discrimination, denial of benefits and wrongful termination. People who feel that they have been unfairly treated by an employer because of a legally protected action like whistle-blowing could consult an attorney to see what recourse may be available. Emails, text messages, interviews with co-workers, and payroll records might all be used to build a case that could lead to the filing of a claim with the EEOC or applicable state agency.