Workplace Retaliation

All employees have certain rights under state and federal law. Many Maryland workers may be reluctant to assert those rights for fear of adverse action by their employer. This is why workplace retaliation claims are actually among the more frequent legal problems confronted in employment discrimination law.

At The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C., we can help if your employer has attempted to punish you for reporting illegal discrimination or otherwise invoking your rights under the law. Both private sector and government employees are subject to anti-retaliation provisions of civil rights laws. Even if your underlying discrimination case has been dismissed or disposed of, your employer can be held separately liable for any acts of retaliation. In fact, you may be a victim of workplace retaliation even if you were not directly the target of discrimination.

What is a “Protected Activity” Under the Law?

Retaliation refers to any situation where an employer takes a materially adverse action against an employee (or job applicant) because they engaged in a “protected activity” under federal or state equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws. Retaliation may be preemptive. In other words, if an employer maintains a policy that discourages the exercise of EEO rights, that in and of itself may constitute retaliation, even if no employee has filed a discrimination claim.

A “protected activity” essentially means engaging the legal process to pursue an employment discrimination case. In most instances, an employee who is the victim of discrimination must first file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the corresponding state agency, such as the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. An employer cannot fire, transfer, demote, or in any way make an employee’s working life more difficult because he or she filed a discrimination complaint.

Retaliation even extends to threats or statements outside the scope of employment. For example, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee who may be an undocumented worker by threatening to report them to federal immigration authorities. Nor can an employer take a retaliatory action against a member of the employee’s family.

Protect Yourself Against Illegal Retaliation

Beyond direct retaliation against an employee who files a complaint, employers can also run afoul of the law by interfering with the investigatory and legal process. Among other things, an employer cannot order employees to refuse to cooperate with a discrimination investigation – or to give false testimony in a formal proceeding – or discipline employees who refuse to follow orders to engage in any type of illegal activity.

Obviously, when an employer condones or participates in illegal workplace discrimination, it is unlikely to be a willing participant in a legal process designed to uncover and punish such wrongdoing. This further emphasizes the need to contact a Baltimore workplace retaliation lawyer if you plan to pursue a complaint against your employer. Attorney Jamaal (“Jay”) W. Stafford and his litigation team know how to protect employees from employers who abuse the law. Contact or call The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C. today at (410) 514-6099 to schedule a consultation.