You have several rights as an employee, one of which is the right to be free of employee discrimination. Discrimination can include a number of actions, such as harassment and retaliation.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, retaliation is the most commonly cited reason for discrimination claims in the federal sector. Moreover, it is the one of the most common types of findings in federal sector cases.
Types of protected activities
Discrimination laws protect employees of protected classes. Retaliation laws, on the other hand, protect employees who engage in protected activities. Protected activities can take many forms, but some are more common than others. For example, your employer cannot legally retaliate against you for informing a manager or supervisor about employment discrimination; serving as a witness for or filing an EEO investigation, lawsuit, complaint or charge; requesting reasonable accommodations for religious practice or disability; refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination; intervening to protect others; resisting sexual advances; or requesting the salary information of others in an attempt to uncover potentially discriminatory pay practices.
If you participate in an EEO investigation, the law protects your actions under all circumstances. However, in most other instances, the EEO’s protections will only apply if you acted under the reasonable belief that something in your workplace violated EEO laws.
Examples of retaliation
Employees have the right to discipline workers or terminate their employment as they see fit, if their motivations are non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory. However, if an employer acts in response to an EEO activity and in an attempt to discourage others from complaining about future acts of discrimination, he or she may be subject to legal consequences. Examples of what retaliation might look like following EEO activity are as follows:
- Your employer transfers you to a less desirable position
- Your performance evaluation score is lower than what it should be based on set standards
- Your employer threatens to report you to the authorities, or he or she actually does
- Your employer verbally or physically abuses you
- You become the subject to increased and unwarranted scrutiny
- Your employer or supervisor makes it more difficult for you to do your job
You can gain more information regarding your rights and protected activities at the EEO website.