Organizational accountability starts and ends with you, the employee.
Of course, in an ideal world, management will be ethical and third-party investigations will be rigorous and fair. But the hard truth is that management sometimes lacks the incentive to be accountable and third party investigations are sometimes lax or nonexistent. The bottom line? If you see something, say something! Workplace harassment, discrimination, and safety violations are all preventable problems — as long as you’re willing to take the initiative needed to eliminate these issues.
Reporting workplace unfairness
One important fact you should know: if you do choose to report harassment, discrimination, and/or safety violations to the proper authorities or your employer, there are a number of legal protections in place that forbid your employer from punishing you. For example California Government Code section 12940(h) prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who has complained about discrimination or harassment or who refuses to participate in conduct that they feel is discriminatory. This statutory protection applies even if your allegations turn out to be false, as long as they are made in good faith.
Once again, however, it is important to understand that there sometimes exists an important disconnect between your theoretical legal rights and the pragmatic reality of a situation. A disturbingly high percentage of employers choose to break whistleblower protection laws and punish honest employees regardless — oftentimes based on the notion that workers will remain silent for fear of ultimately losing their job.
What to do if you suspect retaliation
If you have been a victim of retaliation for complaining about discrimination or workplace conditions, then you owe it to yourself and your coworkers to stand up against the unlawful acts of your employer. If you are in doubt as to whether or not you are a victim of workplace retaliation, then you may wish to consider the following common signs of workplace retaliation:
- Impossible demands. If your employer changes your regular duties or finds some other way to make your day to day life as an employee more difficult, then you should not rule out the possibility that this decision was made in response to your own report of wrongdoing. For example, you may be placed on a performance improvement plan that has guidelines or expectations that involve subjective metrics or expectations that are impossible to accomplish.
- Hostility. Though rather subjective in nature, an increase in hostility, aggression, or rudeness from your boss following the filing of a complaint or report may actually be an important sign of retaliation. Similarly, you are no longer invited to significant policy meetings and are excluded from the list of employees who receive critical emails after making the complaint about your workplace. Because of the subjective nature of this type of evidence of retaliation, it is important for you to keep a written record of these incidents when they occur.
- Lost hours or termination. As opposed to hostility, a loss of hours, job duties, job title and/or termination can be a very concrete and objective sign of retaliation. If your employer takes this type of drastic and unwarranted action against you following a complaint of discrimination or harassment, then the odds are good that this decision has been influenced by your decision to protest what you perceived to be unlawful conduct. If your termination or loss of job duties occurs shortly after you complained about the work environment, then there is a strong inference that you may be the victim of retaliation. If there is a significant gap in time between your complaint and the unfavorable treatment by your employer, then it is far less likely that you will be found to have experienced retaliation without other more significant evidence of wrongful conduct.
- Issue Being Ignored. One of the clearest signs that your employer is not concerned about discrimination or harassment in the workplace is when your complaint falls on deaf ears. If an employer fails to thoroughly investigate or address your complaint of discrimination or harassment while concurrently treating you unfavorably after the complaint, then it is quite possible that you are the victim of unlawful retaliation. Telltale signs of the fact that your employer is not interested in resolving your complaint is when you are not interviewed about your concern, updated about what has been done to address your complaint, or worse- the reprehensible behavior continues even after the complaint.
Do you need to protect yourself from workplace retaliation or other forms of discrimination? Visit Perrin Law Group online today to learn more about your possibilities for mounting a legal case against your employer.