Workers in the United States have protection from both federal and state laws. You have the right to a harassment and discrimination-free workplace. You should be able to trust that your employer complies with best practices regarding workplace safety. You should not have to agree to do anything against the law as part of your performance of your job.
When you notice that your employer does something questionable, you may choose to bring the issue to light. You might notify management or the executive team about some kind of corruption within the company. You may also notify a regulatory agency about ways the company has broken the law.
Once you speak up and officially become a whistleblower, you are protected from retaliatory punishment by your employer. What are some of the ways companies retaliate against workers who report misconduct?
They move the worker to another shift or department
Maybe you reported insensitive racial comments made by a member of the management team, or perhaps you spoke up about unsafe conditions in part of the factory where you work.
Rather than addressing the underlying issue, the company might transfer you to another department. Instead of retraining or removing the supervisor making inappropriate statements, they penalize you by making you adjust to a new job or a new shift.
They find an excuse to fire you
Termination is one of the most common forms of workplace retaliation. A company may want to get rid of someone who could be a future liability if they continue to engage in misconduct.
Although some businesses will make the mistake of transparently firing someone right after they file a report or make a complaint, many others will try to protect themselves. They will fabricate reasons to discipline a worker and create internal records to justify what is actually a retaliatory termination.
They reduce your job opportunities
You can stay at the same company and even in the same position and have a worse time at work. If you work in sales, you may find that your manager suddenly gives you fewer leads for new sales or lower quality leads than you used to receive. If you are an hourly employee, you may find that you received fewer shifts, more short shifts or less beneficial shifts where the pay would be lower. Your supervisor might start to change your job responsibilities so you have to do the worst and most unpleasant tasks.
Employers should not take punitive action against a worker who reports misconduct, discrimination or harassment. Workers dealing with on-the-job retaliation or a wrongful termination can potentially bring a claim against their employer or former employer in civil court. Knowing your rights under employment law will make it easier to stand up for yourself when facing illegal retaliation.