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Identifying retaliation may require paying attention over time

When people talk about retaliation in the workplace, they give the impression that it is always right out there in your face, so to speak. However, that isn't always the case.

In fact, in many instances, the retaliation may not be quite so obvious. It may take some time before you realize that something is not right.

Obvious retaliation

If you lodged a legal complaint against your boss or a co-worker, you would probably expect any retaliation to occur fairly quickly. You might expect your supervisors or peers to fire, bully or chastise you. Perhaps you expect to receive less than desirable assignments and for everyone to ostracize you. You might even expect not to receive a promotion or a good review that you had otherwise earned.

These forms of retaliation are easier to prove since there seems to be a clear progression from your complaint to the adverse treatment thereafter. Even so, you will need to provide evidence of retaliation but may be fairly easy.

Less obvious retaliation

Your employer may use more subtle methods of retaliation such as the following:

  • You may receive fewer opportunities to advance.
  • You may face criticism for petty slights.
  • Your raises may get smaller over time.
  • Your treatment falls just short of total marginalization.

Your employer may be waiting in the wings for you to make an error that could substantiate firing you or taking some other disciplinary action against you. You may find it easier to tolerate these types of actions than if they were bold, fast and harsh. However, that doesn't make them any more legal. In fact, it may take you time to realize what's happening. And over time, this type of retaliation can be very demoralizing.

When you do realize what's going on, you may want to take the opportunity to document as much as you can. Slow retaliation requires a substantial amount of evidence since it happens over a longer period. Your employer could possibly explain away behaviors you consider retaliation. However, if you have enough documentation and evidence, you may be able to prove your claim.

You don't have to go it alone

Considering the fact that your employer is playing the long game, you may want to make sure that your rights are protected as quickly as possible. As soon as you notice that you are the victim of slow retaliation, you may want to consult with an employment law attorney to protect your rights and obtain guidance and assistance in building, and possibly litigating, your case.

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