What is Workplace Retaliation?

Under federal and state employment law, it is illegal for a Connecticut employer to discriminate against an employee by taking retaliatory measures after he or she flags misconduct or makes a complaint.

Employees who do the right thing and report misconduct (sometimes called “whistleblowers”) should not have to pay a price for stepping forward.

The Connecticut workplace retaliation laws recognize this and protect employees’ positions and careers from employer action.

If an employer does impose punitive measures, like demoting or even firing the employee, the employer can be held liable and face a legal claim for damages from the employee.

How is retaliation in the workplace defined?

Retaliation in the workplace in Connecticut is considered to be any negative employment decision in response to a legally protected act.

Several state and federal laws protect employees, most notably the following:

  • Connecticut General Statutes sec. 31-51m: this law prohibits employers from retaliating against whistleblowers or those who report illegal practices to an outside agency.
  • Connecticut General Statutes sec 31-51q: this law prohibits employer from retaliating against employees who engage in protected speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or the free speech provisions of the Connecticut Constitution. Examples of protected speech can involve opposition to unlawful activities, speech on matters of public concern, and speech regarding serious wrongdoing, intentional dishonesty, deliberately unconstitutional conduct, or threats to health and safety. This is not an exhaustive list, but only represents some examples of speech that is protected under this statute.
  • The Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act: this law prohibits any form of discrimination based on age, sex, race, national origin, sexual orientation, etc. It also makes it illegal to retaliate against an employee for actively opposing workplace discrimination or reporting it.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964: this federal law prohibits punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination including harassment discrimination.
  • First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: this makes it illegal to retaliate against employees who exercise their freedom of speech rights.

Examples of workplace retaliation and “protected acts”

A negative employment decision could involve any of the following actions:

  • Wrongful termination
  • Pay cuts or loss of benefits
  • Demotion or denial of promotion
  • Cuts in work hours
  • Undesirable transfers
  • Creating a hostile work environment
  • Spreading false rumors
  • Reduced opportunities for future promotion
  • Unwarranted disciplinary actions
  • Negative or biased performance reviews
  • Verbal or physical abuse of any kind
  • Harassment or threats
  • Unreasonable demands
  • Undeserved reprimands

Sometimes, even if an employee is moved or transferred as a means of protection against harassment from a co-worker, this can constitute retaliation if the employee preferred their old working environment and considered the new one undesirable.

What are “protected acts” in Connecticut?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) includes a series of activities that are considered “protected”, including:

  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim after an injury
  • Making a complaint about discrimination of any kind (age, race, gender, religion, etc.)
  • Making a complaint about harassment to a supervisor or manager
  • Filing a claim about discrimination of any kind
  • Filing a sexual harassment claim
  • Making a disability claim
  • Returning from disability leave
  • Requesting accommodation of a disability or a religious practice
  • Requesting time off under the FMLA or returning from family leave
  • Reporting the employer for illegal conduct
  • Being a witness or answering questions in an EEO charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit
  • Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
  • Resisting sexual advances or intervening to protect others
  • Asking managers/co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages

How can a workplace retaliation attorney help you?

You should not have to face discriminatory practices for reporting company wrongdoing.

Fortunately, the systems are in place to help you. Our experienced workplace retaliation attorneys have an in-depth understanding of the relevant laws and can help you fight back against the illegal acts of an employer.

We can help you claim a variety of remedies and damages, which may amount to significant compensation awards.

Our lawyers have represented whistleblowers in both state and federal courts who have been punished for exposing, disclosing, and opposing illegal conduct in the workplace.

The Connecticut Supreme Court declared in 1980 that employees are entitled to “judicial protection when their conduct as good citizens is punished by their employers.”

Taking legal action against workplace retaliation

If you believe that you have been retaliated against by your employer for reporting, disclosing, or opposing something that you believed was wrong, contact an experienced employment lawyer.

Speak to the workplace retaliation lawyers at Madsen, Prestley & Parenteau LLC to arrange a consultation and case assessment.