Did you make a complaint of discrimination only to find yourself being investigated? Is fear of retaliation preventing you from discussing workplace concerns with human resources? Has your company created a culture of retaliation to keep employees in line?
Houston employment lawyers Kalandra Wheeler, Robert J. Wiley, and Julie St. John represent employees who have experienced workplace retaliation. Indeed, our Houston office sees more claims of retaliation than any other claim. Retaliation is almost always illegal. Retaliation is a particularly vile offense because it punishes the very victims the law was designed to protect.
Because retaliation undermines the rule of law, almost every employment statute contains an anti-retaliation provision. Laws that prohibit retaliation include the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act (overtime wages and minimum wage), the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Texas Labor Code. It is illegal to retaliate against an employee for:
- Making a claim of discrimination.
- Lodging a complaint of unpaid overtime wages or minimum wages.
- Participating in a human resources investigation on behalf of a victim.
- Reporting a workplace safety violation.
- Filing a claim for workers’ compensation after an injury.
- Reporting a violation of law to the police.
- Refusing to do something illegal.
- Requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability.
- Requesting time off work for a medical condition, to care for a family member, or for the birth of a child.
In our experience, retaliation claims are some of the strongest claims to argue to a jury. In fact, proving retaliation is often easier than proving the underlying complaint of discrimination or other violation.
Generally, an employee only has to prove three elements to win a case of retaliation.
- First, did the employee engage in a protected activity? Protected activity could be something like complaining of sexual harassment or complaining that you were not properly paid overtime.
- Second, did the employer take action against the employee? This could be anything from termination to sabotaging an employee’s performance.
- Third, did the employer take action because of the employee’s complaint? This third element is referred to as causation. Although there are many ways to prove causation, the main method is to show temporal proximity. That is to say, did the retaliatory act occur soon after the employee’s complaint?
If you are anticipating that your employer will retaliate against you for making a complaint, it may be best to consult a Houston employment attorney ahead of time. We often assist employees in asserting a complaint that meets the requirements of “protected activity” making retaliation illegal. The fact that you are represented by an attorney may make your employer less likely to retaliate against you. If the employer is unwilling or unable to fix the underlying problem, we can negotiate for a severance that will compensate you for your harms and damages. This could include lost wages as well as damages for injury to your reputation, emotional distress, and humiliation.
We generally begin by meeting with prospective clients face-to-face at our Houston office. You will have an opportunity to speak to an attorney concerning employment retaliation. If you decide to retain us for representation, we will discuss strategies for either saving your job or negotiating an exit.
If you believe you have experienced retaliation in the workplace, please contact us immediately. Importantly, the deadlines in employment law are very short. A workplace safety retaliation complaint may have a deadline of as short a thirty days. Other retaliation claims may have a deadline as short as 180 or 300 days depending on whether you are going to state or federal court.