5 Signs of Retaliation in the Workplace and How to Prove It

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 the 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.

What is workplace retaliation?

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 employers 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 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.

What common activities may incite workplace retaliation?

Retaliation occurs when an employer takes adverse action against an employee for engaging in or exercising their rights protected under the law. Common activities that may incite retaliation include the following:

  • Refusing to commit illegal acts despite your employer’s direction or request to do so
  • Requesting or taking a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Filing a claim against your employer with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO).
  • Complaining to your employer about workplace discrimination or harassment
  • Whistleblowing against your employer to thwart illegal or fraudulent practices
  • Filing for workers’ compensation benefits

Participating as a witness in an EEOC or any other legal case against your employer

If following one or more of these actions, you faced undue consequences or noticed other signs of retribution, you may have grounds for a legal retaliation claim.

5 signs of workplace retaliation

Retaliation can take many forms, and any negative action taken by an employer which is severe enough that it might deter a reasonable employee from exercising their legal rights is likely to be sufficient to support a legal claim of retaliation. But, the following types of employment actions are often involved in many retaliation cases:

  • Demotion – Losing status, responsibilities or seniority privileges associated with your position or being assigned a lower-ranking position
  • Termination – Being let go from your position
  • Salary reductions or loss of hours – Receiving a pay cut or losing regularly scheduled hours
  • Exclusion – Being intentionally kept out of staff meetings, training, or other activities made available to fellow employees
  • Reassignment – Being reassigned duties or rescheduled in a way that causes you undue hardship

Other common retaliatory tactics include sudden unwarranted negative performance reviews, warnings, or performance improvement plans (to build the case for your eventual termination) and citing poor performance as a reason to deny you the desired promotion.

Proving retaliation in CT

To prove workplace retaliation in Connecticut, you must show that your employer took an adverse action against you because you reported or complained about illegal activity. This can be difficult to do, but a few things can help.

First, keep track of everything that happens at work. This includes any conversations you have with your employer or co-workers, as well as any written communications. This will be important if you have to court to prove your case.

Second, try to get witnesses who can testify about what happened. This can be difficult, but it is important to have people who can corroborate your story.

Third, consult with an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the legal process and ensure that your rights are protected. Proving workplace retaliation can be difficult, but with the right help, it is possible.

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 an employer’s illegal acts.

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

Our lawyers have represented whistleblowers in 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.