One of the most common employment law violations in today’s environment is retaliation (also known as reprisal). There would be little force behind laws designed to protect you, the worker, if an employer could simply retaliate against you for exercising your legal rights. Fortunately, you are protected if you assert your employment law rights. Your employer may not take adverse action against you (including: termination, demotion, promotion denial, suspension, or pay reduction) if you engage in certain “protected activity.” This protected activity includes the following, non-exhaustive list:
- Reporting illegal harassment in the workplace or that you are being subjected to a hostile work environment to your supervisor, manager, or human resources
- Filing a Charge or Complaint of discrimination with a government agency such as the EEOC, Tennessee Human Rights Commission, U.S. Department of Labor, or Tennessee Department of Labor
- Filing a lawsuit against your employer
A Whistleblower Should Not Fear Retaliation
You may also engage in “whistleblower” activities without fear of retaliation. This includes: (1) refusing to remain silent about illegal activities; AND (2) refusing to participate in illegal activities. In order to enjoy “whistleblower” status for reporting illegal activities, you must report the illegal activity outside your employer’s organization. For example, contacting OSHA, EPA, or FDA to report illegal activities your employer is engaging in would be considered “whistleblower” activities, whereas, reporting such concerns to upper management or board of directors would not be covered. Additionally, if you are being asked by your employer to engage in an activity you know to be illegal, you cannot be retaliated against for refusing to engage in this illegal activity.
For further information as to what the courts consider “whistleblower” activities, it is best to consult experienced legal counsel.