Retaliation for Complaints of Discrimination or Harassment


“Vengeance would have us assault an enemy’s pride to beat him down. But vengeance hides a dangerous truth, for a humbled foe gains patience, courage, strength, and greater determination.”

 – – Richelle E. Goodrich

At some point in your life, you probably had an experience that made you believe it was not safe to speak up at work.  You learned to be a good girl/boy—to behave, be nice and do things by the book. But being nice, and quiet, stopped serving you when you realized that you, or someone you work with, has been judged and treated badly.  It became crystal clear that you were being treated like a lesser person, because of the shade of your skin, because you’re a woman, because you have a disability, or because of any other category protected under our civil rights statutes, and it no longer deserved your tolerance.  And you spoke up.  

  • You spoke to a manager about your line leader’s racial comments
  • You went to human resources when the supervisor assumed you couldn’t do a job because of your disability
  • You sent an email to the personnel office about all the substantially younger workers who you have trained being promoted above you
  • You registered a complaint with the company of harassment by a coworker who cornered you for the 10th time with unwelcome and offensive sexual comments
  • You commented on your unduly negative performance evaluation about how your boss has made it repeatedly clear he really does not care for the religion you practice
  • You made a charge of discrimination with the EEOC when a new manager decided you, the only woman in the department, need to be demoted to a less challenging position, despite your history of good results

You spoke up with strength and integrity, despite being scared of the consequences, which is only human.  You ACTED.

Your employer REACTED.

  • Suddenly, it’s like you can’t do anything right   
  • Your workload increases more than others
  • You are demoted out of your department
  • You are placed on a performance improvement plan or written up
  • You are getting less hours on the schedule
  • You get unfairly negative evaluations
  • You are held to a higher standard than other coworkers in the same position
  • The promotion that was in the bag is suddenly yanked out from under you
  • You are suddenly given impossible work goals
  • Your employer ignores your complaint of discrimination or harassment, failing to investigate, or at least failing to even talk to the witnesses whose names you have provided
  • Management tells you that the supervisor who patted you on the behind is just being “silly,” or that’s “just who he is, it doesn’t mean anything,” and “you really need to let this go if you want to be successful in this job”
  • Human resources suddenly starts investigating YOU for anything they can find to use against you
  • The supervisor about whom you complained has made it clear that he WILL find a way to get you fired
  • You quickly become the target for bullying behavior, or the office is freezing you out of meetings and assignments, refusing to provide normal assistance or interaction
  • You are unexpectedly terminated within weeks, or even days, of making your complaint

You acted, speaking out against discrimination or harassment, because you could no longer tolerate being silent. Your employer reacted, treating you badly in a measurable and significant way simply because you spoke up. This reaction from your employer has impacted on you like a bomb, causing you definite damage in your workplace, your money, the respect of your coworkers, your self respect, your blood pressure, your emotions, your sleep, your anxiety about your future, your medication, your ability to get another similar job, your resume, your tears, your EVERYTHING.  That is in all likelihood ILLEGAL under our civil rights statutes. If you’ve spoken up, and in response your employer has slapped you down, you strongly need to consider contacting an employment law attorney.  You have already ACTED before, making your complaint, showing that you have the courage to speak up. Don’t let fear stop you from ACTING AGAIN to make your employer responsible for their damaging reactions against your bravery.