There are often situations that arise in the workplace in which strain is placed on the relationships between employers and employees. Discrimination is one such potential strain. In Illinois and around the nation, employers are prohibited from retaliating against their employees based on their religion, race, sex, color, nationality, age and any disabilities they may have. Employers are also required to pay men and women the same wage for the same work. If a worker files a complaint alleging that their employer has broken one of these laws, sometimes the employer retaliates by harassing, demoting or terminating the employment of the worker, actions that are prohibited by law. There are three main terms under which individuals can qualify for protection under these retaliation laws:
To prove retaliation has occurred, an employee must show that their employer took an adverse action against them. These actions are taken to attempt to keep individuals from opposing discriminatory practices or from being involved in an investigation into allegations of employment discrimination. Potential adverse actions include the following:
- Employment actions including wrongful termination, denial of promotion and refusal to hire.
- Actions affecting the employment environment, such as threats, unjustified negative references or evaluations and increased surveillance.
- Any action, such as assault or unfounded legal charges that are being used to deter employees from pursuing their legal rights.
Petty actions, such as petty slights and annoyances, are not considered to be adverse actions so long as they take place in an otherwise positive or neutral environment.
Workers are considered to be covered individuals when they have actively taken a stance against a discriminatory practice or person at their workplace. Those who have opposed unlawful practices, taken part in proceedings or requested accommodations in connection with employment discrimination are also covered by these laws. Additionally, those who are closely associated with other individuals who have engaged in these protected activities are also considered covered individuals.
When employees oppose a practice that they believe is an employment law violation, their opposition must take a certain form to be considered a protected activity. As long as the opposition is based on a reasonable belief that anti-discrimination laws have been violated and the manner in which the opposition is delivered is reasonable, it is a protected activity. Unlawful activities, including threats and acts of violence, and any action that interferes with job performance on a level that makes a worker ineffective are not protected activities.
Losing one’s employment is a difficult thing for anyone to experience. When the lost job is a result of retaliation and not due to the fault of the worker, it makes the situation even more difficult to endure. Those who feel that their employer has illegally retaliated against them should contact an Illinois employment attorney immediately to discuss their case and learn how the law works in their favor.