Our legal system takes a dim view of employers who retaliate against employees who have complained of discrimination. Retaliation discourages employees from standing up to discrimination and weakens the effect of anti-discrimination laws. In this post, our Tampa retaliation lawyers at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC will explain what “retaliation” is in the eyes of the law, and what you need to establish to prove your claim.
Generally speaking, retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse action against an employee because the employee (or someone close to that employee) opposed a discriminatory employment practice or participated in an investigation into discriminatory employment practices.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 broadly prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and provides for related claims of retaliation. Several other federal laws, as well as Florida state laws, also prohibit discrimination and forbid retaliation. These include:
Any employee covered by these laws may pursue a claim of retaliation. In addition, non-covered employees also may pursue a claim if they are retaliated against. For example, if you oppose discrimination against a person with a disability, you can file a claim of retaliation even though you are not disabled. If you file a charge of age discrimination and someone closely associated with you experiences an adverse employment action, that person can also pursue a retaliation claim even though he or she is younger than 40.
The laws listed above generally protect you from retaliation for participating in a complaint or charge process, and for otherwise opposing discrimination by your employer. Opposition activities include threatening to file a charge of discrimination, complaining to management about discriminatory conduct, and refusing to do something you believe is discriminatory. Protected activity clearly includes filing a formal charge of discrimination and all activities involved in seeing that charge through to the end, such as giving a statement to investigators or testifying at a hearing. Complaints about general working conditions (as opposed to unlawful discrimination) are not protected activity. If, for example, you complain about working on Saturday and you get demoted, you will not be able to establish a retaliation claim.
An adverse employment action usually is one that has a direct economic impact on the employee, such as termination, demotion or a decrease in pay. However, depending on your circumstances, other types of conduct also may be deemed an “adverse employment action” if they would dissuade a reasonable person from making future complaints, including a change in shifts or schedules, discipline, or exclusion from training or promotion opportunities.
Even if you have engaged in a protected activity and experienced an adverse employment action, this will not be enough to state a claim for retaliation under the law unless you can show a causal link between the two events. One way to establish a causal connection is with a timeline. If your protected activity is followed closely by the adverse employment action, it will be much easier to prove the causal connection. The farther apart in time these two events are, the more difficult it will be for you to prove they are related. In addition, you will have to show that the employer was aware of your protected activity at the time the decision to take adverse action against you was made. Retaliatory motive is essential to proving your case.
If you believe that your employer has retaliated against you, contact our experienced Orlando retaliation lawyers. The law in the area is complex; we can evaluate your situation, determine if you have a claim, and help you obtain justice. You can reach us by phone, at (727) 254-5255, or by email, live chat or website. Contact Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC today for a free consultation.
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