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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

Retaliation: What is it and how am I protected?

Several federal laws prohibit employment discrimination and protect employees from retaliation when they exercise their rights under these laws.

Several federal laws prohibit employment discrimination and protect employees from retaliation when they exercise their rights under these laws.

Several federal laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protect employees from discrimination in the workplace. Additionally, these laws protect employees from retaliation when an employee exercises his or her rights under one or more of these laws.

If you aren’t sure what retaliation is, consider the following definition by the EEOC. According to this agency, “Retaliation occurs when an employer, employment agency, or labor organization takes an adverse action against a covered individual because he or she engaged in a protected activity.”

Essentially, if you oppose employment discrimination in a lawful manner, your employer is not allowed to treat you poorly because of it. If you think you are a victim of retaliation, don’t hesitate to contact an employment attorney.

“Adverse Action” in Retaliation Cases

An employer who engages in an adverse action is, essentially, taking revenge. Adverse actions in retaliation cases include, but are not limited to,:

  1. Termination

  2. Refusal to hire

  3. Denial of promotion

  4. Threats

  5. Unjustified negative evaluations or references

  6. Increased surveillance at work

Adverse actions do NOT include:

  1. Occasional negative comments justified by poor work performance or history

  2. Stray negative comments in an otherwise positive or neutral evaluation

Speak to an employment attorney if you are unsure whether or not your employer’s actions would be considered adverse actions in a retaliation case.

“Covered Individual” Status in Retaliation Cases

An individual is covered when he or she (1) lawfully opposes an employment practice he or she believes to be discriminatory, (2) participates in an employment discrimination proceeding, or (3) requests a reasonable accommodation related to employment discrimination on the basis of a protected class such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. In addition, those with a close association with a covered individual are protected. For example, an employer cannot demote an employee because her spouse participated in an employment discrimination lawsuit.

“Protected Activities” in Retaliation Cases

Federal laws protect you from retaliation if you:

  1. Complain to anyone about the alleged discrimination

  2. Threaten to file and/or file a charge of discrimination

  3. Picket in opposition to a discriminatory practice

  4. Refuse to obey an order you believe to be discriminatory

  5. Participate in an investigation of the alleged discrimination

  6. Serve as a witness in an investigation or during litigation

  7. Request a reasonable accommodation

Protected activities do NOT include illegal acts such as threats of violence or actions that interfere with your work performance by rendering you ineffective as an employee.

Speak to a KM&A Attorney about Retaliation

Wondering whether you have a case? If you think your employer retaliated against you for engaging in a protected activity, contact us right away. We offer free and immediate consultations with an experienced employment attorney who can discuss the particulars of your case with you and explain what legal remedies are available to you. For example, you may be able to file a retaliation complaint,bring a lawsuit against your employer, and collect damages.

We believe that, in order to aggressively pursue our clients’ interests, we have to be extremely accessible. Don’t hesitate to contact us by phone in Pittsburgh at 412-626-5626 or in Philadelphia at 215-618-9185. We can also be reached by email at We represent clients across Pennsylvania.

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