Workers have a right to engage in employment without fearing the consequences if they resist sexual harassment or complain of racial discrimination.
Unfortunately, these and other unfair and unjust practices occur in workplaces throughout North Carolina. In this post, the EMP Law team explores laws protecting workers against retaliation and provides examples of workplace retaliation.
Our experienced employment lawyers dedicate our time and resources to fighting for workers throughout North Carolina. No worker should be afraid of exercising their rights or speaking out against injustices in the workplace.
We have offices in Winston-Salem and Charlotte and serve employees throughout the state.
What Is Workplace Retaliation?
Workplace retaliation occurs when an employee experiences an adverse employment action because they complain about discrimination, harassment, or violation of workers’ rights.
When employers engage in retaliatory practices against workers who speak out against unfair or illegal practices, they undermine the purpose and function of the laws.
Workplace retaliation can also occur when a worker assists a fellow employee in filing a complaint regarding workplace discrimination or a violation of workers’ rights. In other words, workplace retaliation laws can protect the subject of the illegal practice and those who speak out against the practice.
Federal Laws that Protect Workers Against Workplace Retaliation
Federal laws that make workplace retaliation illegal include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963,
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and
- The Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
As the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains, if an employee takes action against or because of discriminatory practices, it’s illegal for the employer to respond in ways that would “discourage someone from resisting or complaining about future discrimination.” The EEOC enforces many laws protecting workers against discriminatory and retaliatory practices.
North Carolina Laws that Shield Employees from Workplace Retaliation
North Carolina also has laws that protect workers against workplace retaliation. One such law is the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act, or REDA.
North Carolina’s REDA laws make it illegal for an employer to discriminate or take adverse employment action against an employee in response to that employee acting in good faith to address discrimination, harassment, or another violation of employment laws.
Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against an employee for lawfully taking parental or sick leave or taking time off work to comply with other legal obligations.
Examples of protected employee activities in this regard include the following:
- Filing a claim or complaint;
- Helping another employee file a claim or complaint;
- Investigating or participating in an investigation of a claim;
- Testifying or providing evidence used in a hearing regarding discrimination, harassment, or another violation of employment laws;
- Exercising their rights under the Wage and Hour Act, the Occupational Safety and Hazards Act of North Carolina, the Mine Safety and Health Act of North Carolina, and the North Carolina Pesticide Law of 1971;
- Attending a juvenile delinquency hearing with their child; and
- Exercising their rights under North Carolina’s domestic violence laws.
Just because you take the above actions does not mean that your employer cannot take adverse action against you indefinitely or for lawful reasons.
That said, under North Carolina law, your employer is responsible for proving by the “greater weight of the evidence” that they had lawful reasons to take the adverse action and such were unrelated to you exercising your rights.
What Are Examples of Workplace Retaliation?
Now that we have covered background information on the laws surrounding retaliatory practices, let’s review examples of retaliation in the workplace.
Please note that these are just hypotheticals. You are encouraged to contact a qualified attorney to find out if you have a workplace retaliation claim against your employer.
Firing an Employee for Resisting Sexual Advances
One example of retaliation is when an employer or supervisor fires an employee for resisting sexual advances. The worker has every right to control what does or does not happen to their body and should not lose their job because they stood up for themselves.
Reducing the Salary of an Employee Who Complains About Racial Discrimination in the Workplace
Workers have the right to do their jobs and participate in the workplace without experiencing racial discrimination. When this does not happen, workers have the right to file a complaint and speak out against these practices.
Sadly, some employees face unlawful retaliatory practices, such as a reduction in pay or hours, because they voiced concerns about racial discrimination.
Employers who engage in these practices violate the law and may be held accountable if the employee files a complaint.
Failing to Assign Projects to an Employee with a Disability After They Request Accommodations
Employees with disabilities are entitled to request reasonable accommodations so they can meaningfully participate in the workplace. Unfortunately, some employers treat employees with disabilities unfairly and deny their reasonable requests for modifications. Some employers take this even further and fail to assign projects to the employee who requested accommodations.
When employers take these or other adverse actions, they violate the law and may be held accountable.
Harassing or Bullying an Employee Who Complained or Inquired about Wage and Hour Matters, Safety or Health Issues, or Filed a Worker’s Compensation Claim,
Another example of retaliation is harassing or bullying a worker who complains that the employer is violating wage and hour laws, safety or health regulations, or for filing a worker’s compensation complaint. REDA protects North Carolina Workers from retaliation for many of the above activities.
Call EMP Law If You Experience Retaliation in the Workplace
Workplace retaliation is unlawful, and we help protect and defend North Carolina workers against these terrible practices.