Employees are protected from retaliation under both federal and state law. Employers may not retaliate against employees because the employee engaged in “protected activity.” Protected activity includes complaining to your manager or human resources about certain improper conduct, filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices. For example, a manager may not target an employee because the employee complained to human resources about a manager discriminating against him or her or against a fellow employee.
Retaliation is commonly based on an employee engaging in some of the following conduct:
- Employee complains that he or she was not paid proper wages;
- Employee attempts to use medical leave as provided by federal law under the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”);
- Employee complains she or he has been subject to unwanted sexual harassment;
- Employee complains he has been called derogatory or racially-charged names;
- Employee complains that he has not been provided proper accommodations for a disability; and
- Employee complains that another employee has been mistreated on some basis, such as race, religion, or sex.
When an employee brings a lawsuit based on retaliation and wins, he or she is entitled to an award of damages which may include:
- Back pay (or what you would have earned but for the employer’s wrongful conduct between the time of the wrongful act (such as wrongful discharge) and the time of trial);
- Front pay (or what you would have earned but for the employer’s wrongful conduct from the time of the trial into the future);
- Reinstatement (or giving you your job back)
- Reasonable accommodation (such as a modification of your work environment if you are disabled); and
- Other damages to restore the employee to the position he or she would have been in but for the discrimination.
Remedies may also include compensatory and punitive damages depending on various circumstances such as the egregiousness of the employer’s conduct. Remedies also may include attorneys’ fees and court costs