What is meant by retaliation as it applies to employment law?

Retaliation may occur in the workplace when an employer punishes an employee for an action that is permitted by law, but which the employer wants to discourage. For example, an employer may retaliate against an employee who makes harassment or discrimination complaints, who reports fraud or other wrongdoing in the workplace, or who participates in an investigation within the workplace.

Retaliation may come in many different forms, from outright firing, to demotions, being denied a promotion or a pay raise, or being reassigned to a less desirable job or shift. Some retaliation is subtle, but if it negatively affects an employee and deters him from taking action, it can be illegal.

There are federal and state laws in place that protect employees from illegal retaliation in the workplace. This is true even if the action for which the employee was targeted turns out to be unfounded, as long as the claim or action was made in good faith. Employees in certain cases also are protected by whistleblower law.

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