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What is 'retaliation' in the context of an employment law claim?

In the employment law field, "retaliation" generally refers to an adverse action by an employer to punish an employee for lawful actions. The retaliation is often committed against an employee who exercises their legal rights. Courts tend to interpret retaliation as a highly unlawful action that ultimately serves to frighten employees into "putting up with" or "enduring" an employer's wanton disrespect for their rights.

Retaliation happens in a lot of different ways. Following are some examples:

Family and Medical Leave Act retaliation: Employees at larger employers -- by virtue of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) -- often have the right to take a certain amount of unpaid time off without the threat of losing their jobs. However, employers may seek to punish employees who exercise their rights in this regard by putting them in a lower-paying position, giving them poor performance reviews, passing them up for promotions, demoting them or even terminating their employment.

Sexual harassment retaliation: Victims of sexual harassment are sometimes retaliated against for exercising their right to a safe workplace. For example, employees might be penalized through termination of employment, demotion, fewer work opportunities and other negative actions.

Whistleblower retaliation: Employees are sometimes punished for reporting the criminal actions of their employers to authorities. An employer might punish an employee who participates in a government investigation or supports a co-worker in their sexual harassment claims.

There are many other ways that unlawful retaliation can occur at a workplace. Evidence associated with this retaliation can help bolster and strengthen an injured or wrongfully treated employee's other legal claims.

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