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Workers beware: Retaliation is often subtle

Retaliation is the most common claim that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives each year. Even though many federal and New Jersey laws state that retaliation in the workplace is illegal, it is still common.

Many workers might wonder: if retaliation is illegal, how can it still be so common? Unfortunately, one reason for this is that it can be incredibly intimidating to speak up about retaliation. Many employers know this and use that to their advantage to get away with unfair actions against employees.

Another reason is that employers often use subtle forms of retaliation.

What could subtle retaliation look like?

Employers know that retaliation is illegal. Therefore, many of them might attempt to punish employees who engage in protected activities – such as filing a complaint or blowing the whistle – through more subtle actions.

These forms of retaliation might include:

  • Demotion: Employers may reassign employees to a less desirable position to inconvenience them. This position might even lead to less pay and hours.
  • Blacklisting: Although this is a common form of retaliation, it is often difficult to prove. Employers might spread rumors within the business or the industry to interfere with the employee’s career.
  • Exclusion: Employers or supervisors might retaliate against employees by deliberately excluding them from meetings or other events to isolate them.
  • High scrutiny: Some employers might excessively criticize an employee’s work and hold them to unfair standards, just so they can rate their performance lower and affect their pay or career overall.
  • More work: In other cases, employers might assign workers with more work than they know the employee can complete effectively or efficiently. This is often to intimidate them or force them to quit.

Note: It can be more challenging to prove subtle retaliation

Retaliation can already be difficult to prove. And these more subtle forms of retaliation can be even harder to prove compared to harassment or even wrongful termination. That is why employers often use these unfair tactics.

It can be helpful for individuals to speak with an experienced attorney if they suspect that they are experiencing retaliation in the workplace.

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