Employees who report discriminatory actions by their employers can receive protection from retaliation. Unfortunately, spotting these retaliatory strategies can be difficult. Companies often argue that their actions stem from poor performance or circumstance rather than your report of discrimination or harassment.

If you have experienced discrimination at work and feel you suffered punishment as a result of reporting this discrimination, you need to how to spot and defend against retaliation.

What is retaliation?

According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, retaliation is a punishment received by a worker for asserting his or her rights. Retaliation can occur if you attempt to learn salary information to prove discrimination; request accommodation for your religious practice, pregnancy or disability; resist or protect others from unwanted sexual advances; refuse to follow discriminatory orders; participate or initiate a harassment investigation; or file a complaint or lawsuit against your employer.

What are common forms of retaliation?

Any type of punishment for these actions can constitute retaliation. Common retaliatory actions include but are not limited to the following:

  • Unwanted or undesirable change in work schedule
  • Negative treatment or false rumors
  • Increased work supervision
  • Reports or threatened reports to law enforcement
  • Physical or verbal abuse
  • Demotions or undesirable work transfers
  • Negative performance evaluations that do not reflect actual performance

What should I do if I suspect retaliation?

First, talk to your supervisor or a representative from your company’s human resources department. Document these conversations as well as the action that led to the conversations. If the company does not have a clear explanation of the actions in question, express your concerns about retaliations. At this point, you may also want to consult an employment lawyer to get advice and guidance about next steps.

Standing up to discrimination or harassment by your employer can be intimidating. After all, you need your job to support your family. Keep in mind, however, that federal law shields those who report unfair treatment of protected classes in the workplace.