Retaliation occurs quite commonly in the workplace, particularly at the federal government level. As a whistleblower who has complained about possible discrimination, fraud, mismanagement of funds, harassment, or government waste, you may be fearful of a possible punitive response. Retaliation is an illegal practice in the federal workplace that federal employees should report if they witness or experience retaliatory actions.
Signs of Retaliation at Work
Employees who file a complaint against an employer because of unethical or unlawful practices they experience or witness on the job, known as whistleblowing, may be subject to retaliatory actions. Fortunately, federal laws prohibit employers from punishing employees for making complaints or participating in workplace investigations.
Punishment doesn’t just mean termination or demotion. There are other times when retaliatory actions are quite subtle. Therefore, it is important for all employees to know the common signs and forms of workplace retaliation.
What Are Some Examples of Retaliation in the Workplace?
Once you come forward with your whistleblower disclosure, you may face retaliation. While illegal, it is possible for your employer to learn of your whistleblower complaint and take a personnel action against you. The following are the common forms of retaliation employees should keep an eye out for in case their employer reacts improperly after they file a complaint:
- Hostility - Many employees who file complaints often experience verbal abuse by an employer or someone from management. The purpose of hostility is to create a harsh work environment for the worker. In some cases, the employer may ask other workers to participate and fail to acknowledge the existence of such hostile actions.
- Exclusion - Employers may exclude an employee from various work-related activities in an attempt to isolate him/her. They may not invite the worker to important meetings, training sessions, opportunities for advancement, or even social functions.
- Thwarting advancement - While it is completely reasonable for an employee to be passed over for a promotion or raise for valid reasons, blocking advancement can also be seen as another common sign of retaliation. For example, an employer conducts a negative performance review that is backed by little to no evidence, which becomes part of the worker’s permanent employment record and may also prevent him/her from obtaining a raise. Thwarting advancement can also come in the form of choosing a less-qualified employee for a promotion.
- Post-employment retaliation - Retaliation can occur when an employee plans on leaving the workplace and applies for a new job, but the employer interferes with the attempt to obtain a new job by providing false or negative information to a prospective employer. Even if the employer refuses to provide a reference at all, this could be viewed as workplace retaliation.
If you believe that you are experiencing retaliation by your employer, you should not let these acts deter you from doing what is right and pursuing your whistleblower claim.
How Can I Prove Employer Retaliation?
When reporting employer retaliation, you will need to present evidence or documentation of the retaliatory action. Your evidence should include documentation of your employer treating you unfairly, such as passing you up for a promotion, demoting you, or unfairly firing you. You will also need to display that the alleged retaliatory action occurred following your initial complaint. This can be done by showing a link in the timing of when these actions occurred, showing there is a lack of explanation for the way you have been treated, and proving that your employer knew of the complaint you made.
With the guidance of a federal employment attorney, you can build a strong argument displaying that your employer’s actions were retaliation as a result of your initial complaint. As a federal whistleblower, you have numerous rights under specific whistleblower legislation and civil rights protections to help protect you from retaliatory actions by your employer through the complaint process.
Top-Rated, Award-Winning Federal Employment Attorneys
If you believe you are a victim of retaliation at the workplace, remember that you are protected by federal laws. Our attorneys at The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC understand how these legal situations develop and work our way through the system. We will advocate for you and use every resource possible to protect you from unlawful retaliation.
Call (202) 350-3881 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation with our award-winning whistleblower protection attorneys to learn more about how we can help you fight your employer’s retaliation.