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Employment law: what is retaliation?

Friction in the workplace can not only make it challenging for work to be conducted, but it can stifle relationships and lead to allegations of illegal acts. Quite often this is seen in the context of discrimination and harassment, as well as retaliation. Of course, it is illegal for an employer in California to discriminate against a job applicant or employee based on classifications such as age, race and religion, but it is also illegal for an employer to retaliate when allegations of discrimination or harassment are brought to its attention or are reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Retaliation can take many forms. It may present itself in unwarranted disciplinary action or a performance appraisal that is less than what is deserved. Also, retaliation can occur when an employer increases its scrutiny of an employee's job performance and/or decides to transfer an employee to a less desirable position. Reducing pay, job hours and even spreading rumors about an employee or his or her family can all be classified as retaliation.

When it occurs, retaliation can make a workplace hostile for an employee. He or she may become ashamed, embarrassed and afraid of speaking up about what he or she thinks is right. This can decrease motivation and productivity for employers, and it can lead to very serious emotional and financial ramifications for those employees who are subjected to retaliation.

Retaliation, just like discrimination and harassment, is against the law. Therefore, workers who have been retaliated against for bringing issues of discrimination or harassment to their employer's attention should consider acting on their legal rights, which may include recovering damages for lost wages or reinstatement to one's position. Employers who have been wrongly accused of retaliation can benefit from legal assistance, too. By doing so, they can better protect their reputation in addition to their risk of financial liability. These cases are often hotly contested, but a competent employment law advocate can be able to help a party seek a resolution that is fair and appropriate.

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