As an employee, you have the right to participate in certain protected activities. These include becoming part of an investigation of your employer and testifying against him or her if you were a witness to his or her wrongdoing. If you were subject to adverse action by your employer in response to these actions, such as a demotion, pay dock or dismissal, that would be an example of employer retaliation, which is against the law.

However, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an adverse action by your employer does not need to affect you directly to qualify as retaliation. If there is a family member employed with the same organization, such as a spouse or a sibling, and the employer somehow mistreats that person in response to your actions, that is still an act of retaliation intended to harm you indirectly. If your employer should retaliate against someone you are close to in response to a protected action by you, both you and your family member have the right to file a complaint about the acts of reprisal.

Federal employees have the same rights to report retaliation by an employer that private workers do, as well as employees of local or state government. However, the process of filing a complaint is different if you are a federal employee. Rather than filing with the EEOC, you must contact the EEO Counselor at the agency of your current or former employment. You have 45 days from the time that you became aware of the harm to file your complaint, which is much shorter than the time frame for a state or local government worker or the employee of a private company.