Saturday, September 26, 2015

Workplace conspiracy, harassment and retaliation laws

Whether you like your job or not you primarily work for a paycheck. When conditions at work are so stressful that you find it difficult to work for your paycheck you might want to consider your work environment situation.
In some cases, employees are victims of conspiracies in the workplace. It may sound like something out of a workplace drama series, but it is a common deterrent of progress and ultimately a very unprofessional practice in the workplace. We can pretend that drama doe not exist at work, but the truth is work is run by people. It is part of the human condition to play favorites and disrespect others. When this sort of unprofessionalism arises in an employer or employee, there is a great chance that he or she will attempt to gather additional employees on his or her side to rally against another employee in secret. This is a conspiracy.


A conspiracy against an employee is almost always used to harass. Harassment is any conduct that will lead to the victim to feel unsafe, threatened, persecuted, or distressed. When an employer brings employees together to play a harmful role against an employee, he or she has a personal feud against that individual. This may be due to race, religion, gender, appearance, or anything that he or she does not like about that individual. Harassment is used as a tool to single someone out and make them feel unwanted or embarrassed in the workplace. An employee may feel that he or she is underperforming at work and that his or her opinions are not of value.


Most people who would like to see someone leave the workplace that know there are not sufficient grounds to fire him or her, will coerce the employee into resigning by use of conspiring. If someone starts to feel an incredible amount of stress at work and unwanted, he or she will more than likely resign. This is one of the main goals employers and employees try to achieve when conspiring against an employee.

Workplace Retaliation 

workplace retaliationAre you aware these laws also protect you from being retaliated against? 

I'm one of many employees that have experienced retaliation in the workplace and its companion called harassment. 

Unfortunately, employees are subjected to discrimination, harassment and bullying everyday at work. This environment makes it seem as if the supervisor or manager is ALL POWERFUL in the hostile work environment they have created. Guess what? NOT...for employees that learn their Basic Employee Rights! One of the most powerful weapons employees have against negative employers is a RETALIATION LAWSUIT! 

Why? Retaliation claims are easier to prove. But, what is work retaliation? When our employers punishes us for engaging in "legally protected activity" it becomes retaliation on the job. There can be different kinds of retaliation in the workplace. Some labor and employment protections make any sort of retaliation illegal, others prohibit against unjust firing or wrongful termination. 

Retaliation claims have been increasing dramatically. According to the (EEOC) Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges filed from 2000 thru 2009 jumped 55 percent!! This made up 36 percent of all discrimination claims filed with the commission (the same percentage of racial discrimination claims filed that year). Some factors for the increase include the economic downturn, favorable laws that make proving retaliation easier. However, my favorite reason is arrogant or ignorant employers turning poorly trained supervisors and managers loose in the workplace. 
Employer retaliation can involve any adverse or negative decisions our bosses make against us. These may include; 

  • mysterious shift change
  • change in job duties
  • demotion
  • bullying
  • suddenly negative unjustified employee performance reviews
  • reduced salary
  • assigning blame for others failed job assignments
  • denial of promotion opportunity
  • exclusion from workplace social activities

      Employment Retaliation

For a single parent with three young children this shift reassignment creates a serious hardship. Also the shift change involved many different job functions thus changing her job title. This coincidentally meant she would now be making a lower salary. 

Workplace retaliation can be subtle,insidious and hide in many different disguises. Let's take a look at what is meant by protected activity. Workplace retaliation can very blatant, insidious and subtle. Workplace retaliation is connected to a"Protected Activity" the employee engages in. 

So what does "protected Activity" mean? In Protected activity there are two different elements:   Participation and Opposition 
Here are some examples of Participation:
  • helping co-workers with discrimination claims
  • talking to a (EEO) Equal Employment Opportunity officer
  • being a likely witness (giving testimony)
  • talking about filing a complaint or filing a complaint internally
  • talking about filing a complaint or filing a complaint with the (EEOC) Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • actively involved in an internal or external investigation
  • Talking to or hiring an attorney to file a complaint
Employees are also protect from retaliation in their personal conduct on the job. For example, an employee taking FMLA to care for a spouse or child can't be retaliated against.  

Employer Retaliation

If an employee informs his boss he is having a problem with depression and needs to enter the employers (EAP) employee assistance program he is protected from retaliation. When we inform employers of our concerns about possible violations dealing with safety and health, we are protected. When the employer investigates these issues and no violation has occurred,the employee(s) voicing the concerns acting in good faith are protected from retaliation. 

Here are some examples of Opposition:

  • peace protests (picketing)
  • inquiring if gender or other discrimination is the reason for an employment action
  • declining to perform an assigned task believed to be discrimination
  • requesting a reasonable accommodation
  • expressing intent to file a complaint

The one issue with opposition is that is has to be "reasonable". I know, what is deemed "reasonable". Well the following and hopefully some common sense, which isn't so common anymore, will explain better. These are some *NON PROTECTED* actions not considered "reasonable" opposition by the employee.

  • violating established employer policy
  • willfully undermining company business activity
  • refusing to comply with non discriminatory commands
  • abusive or violent protests

There is a significant difference between "participation" and "opposition" 


      Employee Retaliation

Employees using their rights in opposition must act in "good faith" or have honest intent if they believe the boss has violated their employee rights. However, employees in participation usually do not have to share a belief of wrongdoing on the part of the employer. For example, a co-worker that cooperates is protected from workplace retaliation when assisting my investigation of the boss violating my (ADA) Americans with Disabilities Act rights. The co-worker does not need to believe or know my rights have been violated. 

Another type of workplace retaliation protection involves what's called "Whistleblower Laws". This means it's illegal for employers to punish you when you expose a violation of those laws. Here are some examples;

  • retaliation for union involvement
  • retaliation by a union
  • retaliation under workers compensation law
  • retaliation involving unemployment law
  • retaliation dealing with public policy or common law


Shhhhhhhhh.....don't tell anyone, but retaliation charges are easier to prove than most other workplace violations. Why? Again, because it is tied to a "protected activity". For example, you file a gender discrimination complaint against your boss and lose. However, you still could win a complaint of retaliation for filing the gender discrimination charge. 

Here's the legal reason why. Courts have specifically said that an employee can prevail on a retaliation claim by establishing that the employer retaliated against the employee for opposing allegedly discriminatory practices even if the practices were not, in fact, discriminatory. This judgment comes from the caseSias v. City Demonstration Agency, 588 F2d 692, 692 (9th Circuit 1978).  

Retaliation Claims 

My professional experience and research shows many employers still don't get when it comes to retaliation at work. Here's another BIG TIP for every job seeker and employee, see if the employer is doing any of the following;
  • conducting retaliation and other employee rights training for managers and staff
  • providing detailed explanation of the retaliation complaint process
  • good faith communication with "participants" and "opposers" involved in protected activity
  • clearly written retaliation policies and procedures
  • maintaining accurate investigative records of employees being disciplined, complaining of retaliation or involved in protected activity.

If your employer or potential employer is not concerned about retaliation in the workplace, it becomes even more important for career seekers and employees to educate themselves. In an environment of outsourcing, illegal immigration, corporate corruption and unstable economy, more employers are using fear and intimidation as normal business activity. 

Again, the bottomline in recognizing retaliation on the job asks the question "Am I being punished for filing a complaint concerning discrimination, harassment, health or safety?" The majority of retaliation lawsuits involve some type of discrimination. Therefore, learn all you can about workplace discrimination and proving workplace discrimination. 

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