If you know your workplace rights well enough to stand up for them on the job, your employer should respect you for doing so, not punish you. After all, retaliation against employees is against the law.
Whether you reported a supervisor for sexually harassing you or notified management about suspected embezzlement in the accounting department, the company should not take punitive action against you for doing the right thing or asserting your workplace rights.
If the company would rather punish than allow you to stand up for your rights, their actions may constitute retaliation and require that you push back. What does retaliation look like?
A sudden termination
If you have always been an exemplary employee who gets average or above-average performance reviews, losing your job right after you make a complaint is a likely sign of company retaliation.
Although at-will employment laws permit the company to fire you for any reason at any time, their right to do so ends if their decision violates federal employment law. Punishing you for asking what your co-workers make or fighting back against disability discrimination is retaliation and a violation of your rights.
An unrequested change to your job
If you report your supervisor for inappropriate advances or complain about your co-workers making racist jokes, those other people are the ones who should face transfers to different departments or a move to a different shift.
Companies should not transfer, demote or otherwise penalize those who speak up about the misconduct of others in the workplace. A reduction in hours, a change in pay or slowly diminishing job responsibilities after a complaint could all be examples of retaliation by an employer.
Changes in performance reviews or disciplinary efforts
If your job performance remains the same but your performance reviews are suddenly far worse, the change in your employer’s opinion about your job may relate not to your work ethic but rather to the assertion of your rights.
Similarly, if you have never gotten written up for walking in the door five minutes late before and none of your co-workers get written up either, repeated disciplinary efforts that target you could be a warning sign of retaliation and also of a possible termination on the horizon.
Recognizing behaviors that may ultimately constitute employer retaliation can protect you from this frustrating and far too common form of employer misconduct.