The urge to retaliate is a common human reaction after a perceived offense. Employers may also be failing to provide adequate training and tools so that managers can identify and address these initial reactions.

Federal law prohibits employment discrimination and harassment related to certain traits. It also puts in place protections for those who oppose discrimination or participate in employment discrimination proceedings. For example, it is unlawful for a manager to retaliate against a job applicant or employee who alleges discriminatory practices. Retaliation after a request for a disability accommodation is also not allowed.

In this post, we discuss the increasing number of complaints including recent examples of retaliation in the workplace.

Increasing focus on retaliation

Retaliation occurs across a spectrum from firing or demoting an employee to giving a poor performance evaluation or taking away privileges and perks. It is not necessary to prove the original claim. In many cases, the subsequent retaliation itself may violate the law.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission keeps records of the number of cases it receives and process each fiscal year. Ten years ago, the agency received 26,663 complaints per year. By fiscal year 2017, the number of these cases had nearly doubled to 41,097.

Recent examples of how it happens

These issues can arise in almost every industry and can affect almost anyone. Even an attorney who handles these types of claims is not immune. A partner at a large law firm brought a claim arguing she had routinely been paid less that her male colleagues. After filing the initial case, she was removed from cases and excluded from an annual retreat. She amended her claims to also include unlawful retaliation.

Another example comes from a restaurant, a kitchen supervisor reported being sexually harassed by a manager. His employer said there would be an investigation. Instead, he was fired later that month.

And working through a staffing agency does not mean, you have no rights. A man complained that he was overlooked for a forklift operator position because of racial discrimination. He told his recruiter, who told the company. Not long after, the company fired him in retaliation.

Getting legal help

Because you may only experience discrimination or retaliation once in your career, it may take you off guard. You may wonder why this is happening and what you could have done differently.

Your employer probably has an HR and legal team. You also need legal advice to protect your rights. Speak to an employment lawyer who knows this area of law and has handled cases for others facing similar circumstances.