Many Texas and federal employment laws include anti-retaliation provisions that make it illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for asserting your rights at work. Anti-retaliation provisions protect your right to file a lawsuit or complaints, participate in investigations and assert your rights under those those laws. These provisions give you the right to pursue independent claims for retaliation against your employer in addition to any other claims you might have. You should speak with a Texas employment lawyer if you believe your employer retaliated against you.
You have a protected right to report violations
As an employee you have certain rights under the law to your job and your pay. The same laws that protect your rights also prohibit your employer from acting against you when you protect your rights. If the law did not protect your ability to enforce the law then those rights would be useless. State and federal law prohibits employer retaliation for reporting violations of the law to the appropriate state and federal agencies as well as internal reports to human resources or management. Retaliation is never acceptable. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for reporting alleged violations. Even if the violation you reported is determined not to have occurred. If your employer unlawfully retaliations you should contact Texas employment lawyers right away.
In addition to reporting violations of your own employee rights, you are also protected from retaliation for reporting violations of other employee rights and participating in both internal and external investigations of violations. Without these protections employees would not speak up about problems in the workplace and would not help investigations uncover these violations. It would be very hard to uncover the truth when illegal workplace activity occurs if employees won’t speak up for fear of losing their own jobs.
Employees should be aware of what activities are protected from retaliation to better protect their own rights. Examples of protected activities include:
- Reporting harassment or discrimination you suffered internally to management;
- Filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or Texas Workforce Commission;
- Participating in an investigation of harassment or discrimination conducted by management, human resources, or a government agency;
- Reporting violations of minimum wage or overtime pay laws to the Department of Labor or Texas Workforce Commission;
- Reports of violations of workplace safety standards to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA);
- Reporting improper paycheck deductions or other paycheck issues internally or to state or federal regulators;
- Reports of illegal activity or refusing to engage in illegal activity;
- Reporting discrimination or harassment of another employee internally or externally;
- Requesting FMLA leave or taking FMLA leave;
- Supporting a union or asserting your right to work with co-workers to improve workplace conditions under the National Labor Relations Act;
- Requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act;
- Taking leave to fulfill obligations as a servicemember of the armed forces;
- Notifying your employer of your military servicemember status and potential need for accommodation of those obligations;
- Asserting claims to your employee benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
Most labor and employment laws protect your right to report violations internally and externally to government agencies; however, before filing a complaint with a government agency you should talk to an employment lawyer who can make sure your complaint goes to the right agency with the right information.
Prohibited retaliation under Texas and federal law
Your employer is prohibited from taking any retaliatory steps. Prohibited retaliation includes any negative action against you and your job if the negative action is related to your reporting or participation in investigating claims of violations. The retaliation may be as severe as termination but can include less severe acts. Some common forms of retaliation include:
- Demotion, denying promotion, termination, transfer to another department or division;
- Reducing pay or benefits;
- Taking away favorable job conditions such as work schedules or job duties;
- Harassing the employee to make him or her uncomfortable at work;
- Adding job duties to make the job more difficult that similar employees do not perform;
- Evaluating the employee under stricter standards than similar employees;
- Giving unwarranted negative evaluations;
- Spreading false, negative information about the employee to other members of management in a way that hurts the employee’s job or career path;
- Taking adverse action against a family member that works for the same employer to retaliate against you (for example, your spouse also works at the company and instead of demoting you they demote your spouse to make the retaliation less obvious);
- Spreading false, negative information to a future employer.
These are not the only ways retaliation can occur. Any negative action the employer can think up can be prohibited retaliation if it responds to your reporting unlawful conduct.
Not all complaints create retaliation claims
Not all complaints of undesirable workplace conditions or conduct by management is protected from retaliation. Retaliation is unlawful when in response to a reporting or investigation related to a legally protected right of the employee or legally prohibited conduct of the employer. If the employment law does not prohibit management’s conduct then there is no remedy for retaliation for complaining to higher levels of management or human resources for the undesirable conduct.
For example, if your boss is a jerk and you complain to HR about it and your boss fires you for complaining, you likely would not have a claim for retaliation because the law does not prohibit your boss from being a jerk. However, if you complain that your boss is sexually harassing you and your boss fires you, then you likely would have a claim for retaliation because the law does prohibit your employer from sexually harassing you.
Contact a Texas employment lawyer for retaliation claims
Texas employees who face retaliation for standing up for themselves have rights to pursue additional claims. If you believe your employer retaliated against you, you should talk to an experienced Texas employment attorney right away. Retaliation claims often require you to fulfill specific administrative requirements to pursue your claims. Your employment lawyer can assess your situation and ensure you pursue your claim in the most effective manner.