Employees sitting in a meeting

Protections for Employees Reporting Workplace Discrimination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that, in just the fiscal year of 2020, there were 67,448 charges of workplace discrimination filed by workers. The types of discrimination charges filed are based on a range of federal protections intended to fight discrimination from occurring in the workplace on the basis of protected characteristics such as age, race, and national origin. The most commonly asserted type of discrimination claim filed with the EEOC in 2020 was, however, the retaliation claim. Retaliation claims often arise in the context of workplace discrimination as the complaint was generated as the result of a worker experiencing adverse employment consequences as a result of reporting workplace discrimination. There are laws in place that provide protections for employees reporting workplace discrimination that are commonly known as anti-retaliation laws.

Protections for Employees Reporting Workplace Discrimination

The truth of the matter is that, while thousands of workplace discrimination claims are filed with the EEOC each year, there are many more that go unreported. This is likely due, in large part, to employees worrying about the consequences that may come with reporting workplace discrimination. This fear prevents many employees from reporting workplace discrimination by either submitting a formal complaint or even internally at the place of employment.

Workers, however, should not have to live in fear of experiencing discrimination in the workplace and they certainly shouldn’t fear retaliation for reporting experiencing discrimination in the workplace. Employees should not be afraid of losing their job, being denied a promotion, or experiencing another kind of adverse employment action because they are trying to bring discrimination in the workplace to light. There are legal protections for employees who face potential retaliatory action for filing a workplace discrimination complaint.

You see, reporting workplace discrimination is considered to be a protected activity, as is participating in an investigation into workplace discrimination. Because of this protected status, an employer cannot legally take an action that would be considered “materially adverse” against the employee engaging in the protected activity. A “materially adverse” action is one that would deter a reasonable worker from exposing an incident of workplace discrimination. Historically, termination, demotions, and reductions in pay have been considered to be “materially adverse” actions and, thus, would justify anti-retaliation protections.

Anti-retaliation protections not only extend to current employees, but also to former employees, job applicants, and third parties who have an established relationship with the employee who was subject to workplace discrimination. Those adversely impacted by reporting workplace discrimination can seek monetary compensation for the harm suffered as a result of the retaliatory action. Oftentimes, compensation for harm suffered will include payment of back wages, reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and court costs, and compensation for emotional distress caused by the workplace discrimination and retaliation. Claimants may also be given their former employment position back if they were terminated due to reporting workplace discrimination. 

Employment Law Attorneys

Have you been the victim of retaliation for reporting workplace discrimination? The dedicated team at Castronovo & McKinney is here to help you set things right. Contact us today.