Don’t Get in Trouble Because of an Employment Retaliation Claim
Many employers are knowledgeable to some extent about Florida’s discrimination laws. Smart employers have developed policies and procedures, including reporting procedures, so that harassment problems, or problems related to the disabled not receiving the accessibility they deserve, can be quickly addressed.
State and Federal Retaliation Laws
But many employers (or employees) are not aware of another law, closely related to federal and state workplace harassment laws: Anti-retaliation laws. As the name implies, anti-retaliation laws prevent an employer from taking negative actions against an employee who reports or who complains of violations of harassment laws.
The law also prohibits an employee from being harassed for participating in any type of investigation into a harassment claim.
How Retaliation Happens
Retaliation can and does happen in the workplace. Imagine an employee complaining about needing additional bathroom breaks because of pregnancy. A manager does give her the bathroom breaks that she needs, in compliance with the law. But, angry about the employee complaining in the first place, the manager does not promote the employee, or gives the employee a poor evaluation. This is classic retaliation, and it can happen without you, as the owner, even being aware that it’s going on.
Legitimate Reason is a Defense
An employee who feels he or she has been retaliated against must show that there is no other reason why the employee was demoted, or fired (or was subject to any other negative action), other than the fact that he or she reported the harassment.
That means that the employer can show a legitimate reason why the “whistleblower” was treated the way that he or she was as a defense to the claim.
Of course, the employee then can show that this “legitimate reason” given by the employer is nothing more than a pretext; a legitimate reason that is in fact not legitimate, but rather, being used to “hide” the fact the employee was discriminated against for reporting the harassment.
Additionally, the employee must act appropriately when opposing any harassment. For example, an employee who is upset that his employer is not providing access to the disabled, would not have a right to destroy property, or post negative comments about the employer on social media. In those instances, the employee could be legally fired without it being considered retaliation. One court even found that an employee was rightfully terminated just for recruiting other employees to sue the employer.
Other Applications to be Aware of
Retaliation and whistleblower claims don’t just apply to harassment in the workplace. Any report of illegal activity can lead to a lawsuit, if the employee making the complaint or report is harassed.
For example, someone who makes a worker’s compensation claim cannot be harassed or be treated differently just because a claim was made.
A worker cannot be discriminated against just because he or she made a claim reporting any violation of federal law, such as theft, or the employer breaking tax law, immigration laws, or defrauding Medicare or Medicaid.
Whether you are an employer or an employee, we can help you understand your rights in the workplace. Call Pike & Lustig, LLP at 561-291-8298 for a consultation. Our West Palm Beach employment law attorneys can help answer your questions.