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What kinds of actions can be considered retaliation?

Workplaces can sometimes be unpleasant. When co-workers don't like something you've said or done or perhaps are jealous because you got a promotion or an award they thought they deserved, they may give you the cold shoulder. Managers can be just as mean and petty. However, that behavior often doesn't rise to the level of retaliation — which is illegal.

So what is retaliation? It often involves harassment, demotion or action that impacts the conditions or terms of an employee's job. It can even involve termination. Actions considered to be retaliatory are taken because an employee made a complaint about discrimination or other illegal activity.

This could be a lawsuit or simply a complaint to their employer. Employees are legally protected from retaliation even if the claim they've made is false.

Sometimes human resources (HR) personnel and other powers-that-be believe that an employee's complaint was handled properly and that the matter is resolved. For example, perhaps the issue involved a supervisor who was making racist remarks around an employee. That supervisor was counseled. The racist remarks stopped.

However, the employee who complained can no longer get the vacation days he requests, no matter how far in advance the requests are made. He gets passed over for a new project in favor of others with less experience. Those things may very well be acts of retaliation by his supervisor.

Employers can and should prevent this from happening by checking in regularly with employees who have made complaints. This is the case even when the employers believe that the complaints were effectively handled. They should make sure not just that the behavior has stopped, but that the employee doesn't feel they've suffered retaliation as a result of their taking action.

Do you believe that you've been the victim of retaliation in the workplace but haven't been able to resolve the issue with your employer? Were you fired because you reported harassment, discrimination or other illegal behavior? It may be wise to seek the guidance of an employment law attorney to learn what options you have.

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