Woman discussing retaliation claim with attorney.

Proving Workplace Retaliation

Federal and state laws protect employees from workplace retaliation in certain situations. However, the law only applies to retaliation by an employer when the retaliation is a result of your participation in a protected activity.  Therefore, proving employer retaliation can be difficult without the help of an experienced Washington retaliation claims attorney.

What is Workplace Retaliation?

Workplace retaliation is an adverse action taken by the employer against an employee because of the employee’s involvement in a protected activity. Protected activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • Complaining about harassment or discrimination
  • Filing a whistleblower complaint
  • Taking paid time off that is allowed
  • Inquiring about benefits or compensation
  • Requesting accommodations for a religious practice or disability
  • Refusing to follow instructions that lead to illegal acts or discrimination
  • Testifying as a witness in a lawsuit or administrative proceeding
  • Filing complaints with the EEOC or other government agencies

Employer retaliation can take many forms. An employer does not need to fire an employee to be guilty of retaliation. Examples of employer retaliation include, but are not limited to:

  • Terminating employment
  • Demotions and denial of promotions
  • A decrease in pay without justification
  • Making an employee’s job duties more difficult than necessary
  • Unjustly denying pay increases by lowering job performance evaluations without cause
  • Spreading rumors and false accusations
  • Giving negative references without justification
  • Blackballing an employee within the industry
  • Verbal abuse and harassment
  • Changing an employee’s schedule without reason to cause conflicts and burdens
  • Changing or withholding benefits without cause
  • Being transferred to an undesirable location or department

Any actions that are intended to hurt, defame, or cause undue emotional stress could be considered employer retaliation. 

Proving Workplace Retaliation

To be successful in a workplace retaliation case in Washington, you must prove three key elements:

(1) the employee took a statutorily protected action, 

(2) the employee suffered an adverse employment action, and 

(3) a causal link between the employee’s protected activity and the adverse employment action.

The hardest element to prove is typically the third element, which involves causation. The first and second elements are often known because you took a specific action, and a specific action was taken against you. However, proving that “one” caused “two” is a bit more difficult. 

Your employer is not likely to tell you that you are being demoted or transferred because you filed a complaint or were a witness in an administrative hearing. They are going to provide you with a different excuse, which we refer to as pretext. Your employer may attempt to justify the actions with valid reasons and blame your work performance or behavior.

Identifying Retaliation

Sometimes it is difficult to identify when retaliation is occurring because it may start with something small and then expand. It is important to keep detailed notes of all conversations regarding your employment and keep copies of all documents, emails, and other information provided to you by your employer. 

Contact a Washington Retaliation Attorney for Help

Proving a workplace retaliation claim can be difficult and your time to file a claim is limited.  If you believe you are the victim of workplace retaliation, contact our Washington employment attorney immediately. Our attorney utilizes several strategies and resources to investigate the matter and gather evidence to build a strong workplace retaliation case against your employer. Reach out today so she can get started.