What Do I Do If I Believe My Employer Is Retaliating Against Me?
If you suspect that your employer is retaliating against you, it's perfectly natural to feel a mix of emotions — confusion, fear, frustration, and a sense of injustice may all be swirling through your mind. Feeling vulnerable in this situation is understandable, given the power dynamics at play within the workplace.
Starting to navigate the complexities of this issue requires courage and a level of resilience. It may be a difficult road ahead, but knowing that you can take steps to protect your rights can offer some solace.
Understand Your Rights Under PA Employment Law
One of the first steps in addressing workplace retaliation is understanding your rights as an employee in Pennsylvania. Knowledge is power, and familiarizing yourself with pertinent employment laws, such as the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the Whistleblower Law, can empower you to make informed decisions. These laws protect employees against unfavorable treatment when they've engaged in legally protected activities — such as filing a complaint about workplace discrimination or unsafe working conditions.
It's important to recognize the types of actions that may constitute retaliation, which may include:
- Unwarranted poor performance reviews
- A sudden decrease in hours or pay without a legitimate reason
- Exclusion from meetings or projects to which you would normally be assigned
- Demotion or even termination without a valid cause
Document Every Instance of Suspected Retaliation
Keeping a detailed record of your employer's actions can significantly strengthen your position should you decide to take legal action. Any form of documentation can be useful, from saving emails or messages that show a change in attitude from your employer to keeping a personal log of incidents you believe may be retaliatory. Make sure to note dates, times, and the names of any witnesses present. Maintain a file of any relevant performance reviews and task assignments, and compare these to the documentation you've compiled to demonstrate any inconsistencies or sudden changes.
When documenting, consider the following points:
- Record the context of each incident, including what led up to the suspected retaliation.
- Keep copies of any relevant communications, such as emails, letters, or memos.
- Note the responses of your employer or manager to your complaints or concerns.
It's also advisable to have open lines of communication with your employer. Approaching your HR department or supervisor to discuss your concerns can sometimes resolve issues without further escalation. When doing this, present the facts calmly and professionally and avoid confrontational language. Document this conversation as well, including when it took place and the outcome. If the situation doesn't improve or worsens, having this record will be an essential part of showing that you made efforts to address the problem internally before seeking external remedies.
Seeking Assistance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
If your attempts to resolve retaliation issues internally are unsuccessful, your next step may involve filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to retaliate against a job applicant or an employee because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
When preparing to file a charge, you should ensure you have:
- Evidence of your participation in protected activity (e.g., complaints of discrimination)
- Documentation of the alleged retaliatory actions taken by your employer
- Any relevant communication with your employer regarding the issue
Additionally, be aware of the time limits for filing a charge. In general, you need to file with the EEOC within 180 days from the day the retaliation occurred. This period may be extended to 300 days if the charge is also covered by a state or local anti-discrimination law. Therefore, it is crucial to act promptly and to gather all your documentation as soon as you decide to file a charge. Waiting too long could jeopardize your ability to obtain relief.
Finally, consider connecting with support groups or networks that can offer moral and practical support during this process. These groups often provide valuable insights based on similar experiences and can help you navigate the emotional challenges that may arise. Take care of your mental health by seeking the support and assistance of friends, family, or professional counselors as you go through this demanding period. It's important to remember that while the journey may be challenging, you are not alone, and help is available.
Stay Informed on Company Policies and Procedures
While dealing with potential retaliation from an employer, it's crucial to stay informed about your company's specific policies and procedures. Companies are required to have an anti-retaliation policy that outlines the steps an employee should take if they believe they are being retaliated against. Understanding these internal guidelines will not only help you navigate the system within your company. Still, it will also ensure you follow the proper channels when reporting and escalating your concerns. Check your employee handbook, the HR website, or internal documents provided during your orientation for information regarding the protocol you should follow.
Some key elements to look for in your company's policy might include:
- How to formally report an incident of potential retaliation
- The process that the company will follow once a report is submitted
- Contact information for company officials responsible for handling such claims
- Guidelines on how the company protects confidentiality during an investigation
- Information about the consequences and disciplinary measures for those found to have engaged in retaliation
Keeping up-to-date with these policies also allows you to point out if your employer is not following their own procedures, which can be an additional point in your favor should you need to take legal action. It's wise to keep a printed copy of these policies for your records so you have them on hand to reference at any time.
Maintain Professionalism in the Workplace
Maintaining a professional demeanor throughout the ordeal of facing retaliation is crucial. It's essential not only for your continuing relationship with your employer, should you choose or need to remain in your position, but also for any legal proceedings that may follow. Reacting emotionally or impulsively can undermine your stance and potentially provide grounds for further negative action against you. Staying professional helps to set a clear distinction between your actions and any unjustified responses from your employer.
Key behaviors to maintain professionalism include:
- Staying focused on your work duties and fulfilling job responsibilities to the best of your ability
- Communicating effectively and respectfully, even when under stress
- Avoiding gossip or negative discussions about the situation with coworkers
- Seeking constructive ways to deal with stress, such as through exercise or hobbies, rather than allowing it to impact your work
- Documenting instances of retaliation objectively without letting emotion color your records
Demonstrating grace and control in the face of adversity will not only reflect well on you in any professional context. Still, it will also provide you with a sense of personal strength and integrity. Regardless of the outcome, keeping to the high road ensures that you have conducted yourself in a manner that suits your character and professional standards.
Seeking Legal Assistance
When resolving workplace retaliation internally doesn't yield satisfactory results, it might be time to consider seeking legal assistance. An experienced employment lawyer can offer guidance and robust representation if you need to pursue your case in a court of law. They can help you understand the complexities of employment law, evaluate the strength of your case, and discuss potential outcomes and strategies. An attorney can be particularly beneficial when negotiating settlements or during mediation and litigation processes.
At Scaringi Law, we stand ready to help employees facing workplace retaliation. Our attorneys are well-versed in federal and Pennsylvania employment laws, ensuring that every avenue for recourse is explored thoroughly.
We can assist by:
- Offering a confidential consultation to discuss the specifics of your case
- Guiding you through the process of documenting your claims in a legally effective manner
- Helping you understand the timeline and procedures for filing a complaint with the EEOC or relevant state agencies
- Representing you in all hearings and legal proceedings, thereby ensuring your voice is heard and your case presented with persuasive legal arguments
- Aiding in settlement negotiations to reach a fair resolution without the need for a trial, if possible
- Providing continuous support and legal counsel through every step of your legal journey
With Scaringi Law, you can gain peace of mind that your case is being handled by professionals who are committed to seeking justice on your behalf. From the initial stages of documenting the alleged retaliation to possibly taking your claim to court, we will be with you, helping to fight for your rights and aiming for the best possible outcome.
If you are facing workplace retaliation, get in touch with us online or call us at (717) 775-7195 to schedule a confidential consultation.