Workplace Retaliation Claims

Illegal retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse action against an individual because he or she engaged in a protected activity such as complaining about discrimination.  Examples of adverse actions include, among other actions, termination, refusal to hire, denial of promotion, transfer to a less desirable shift or position, or unjustified negative performance evaluation.

Protected activities come in two forms. The first involves the opposition to a practice believed to be unlawful discrimination. Opposition is informing your employer that you believe that it is engaging in prohibited discrimination. Opposition is protected from retaliation as long as it is based on a reasonable, good-faith belief that the complained of practice is discriminatory.

Examples of protected opposition include:

  • Complaining to the employer about alleged discrimination against oneself or others
  • Threatening to file a charge of discrimination
  • Refusing to obey an order reasonably believed to be discriminatory

The second type of protected activity involves the participation in an employment discrimination proceeding.

Examples of participation include:

  • Filing a charge of employment discrimination
  • Cooperating in an internal investigation of alleged discriminatory practices
  • Serving as a witness in an EEO investigation or litigation

Retaliation claims are the most prevalent EEOC charges filed.  Notably, an employee can lose on an underlying discrimination claim, but still prevail in a retaliation lawsuit.  It is for this reason that retaliation claims are often stronger and more successful than the underlying discrimination claims themselves.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently defined retaliation quite broadly, to include any conduct by an employer that would tend to deter reasonable people from pursuing their rights.


If you have been subjected to an adverse action or wrongfully terminated based on retaliation for your opposition to discrimination, contact our office for a consultation to discuss your rights.