Retaliation Claims by Employers

It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who has filed a discrimination complaint or is engaging in legally protected activity the employer dislikes. Examples of retaliation can include demoting, terminating, harassing, or refusing to hire someone for the activity. Retaliation claims also cover threatening to discipline or terminate employees who refuse to engage in activities they honestly believe are illegal.

Employees cannot be displayed for legal, or protected, activities that include:

  • Supporting, joining, or belonging to a union
  • Refusing to donate to an employer’s political action committee (PAC)
  • Filing discrimination charges
  • Testifying for an employee before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
  • Refusing to perform a job-related activity honestly believed to be illegal
Employers or managers are risking retaliation claims when they single out employees for legal activity.

Employees can file retaliation claims if they are singled out for legal activities an employer dislikes.

Any action against employees for these reasons is considered retaliation.

More Employees are Fighting Back Through Retaliation Claims 

Complaints about retaliation from employers and ex-employers are the single most common type of complaint filed with the EEOC, the agency set up to ensure that civil rights in the workplace are enforced. There are more claims for retaliation than for any of the specific types of discrimination, such as race, sex, age, or disability. They make up almost half of all complaints to the EEOC.

Retaliation is an unlawful payback by an employer for something an employee did that was lawful. Workers who are found to be victims of employer retaliation can sue in court for damages. 

Why do employers or managers retaliate? According to the EEOC, the main reason is personal. Employees have been found to be victims of retaliation when they have been denied promotions or even perks because of past, protected activities—including filing discrimination charges. Some managers improperly view retaliation as a corrective action, particularly if they view a (protected) activity as a personal slight.


If you have any questions about possible retaliation taken against you at work, contact our office for a consultation.