What’s your favorite pen color – is it black? Classic choice. Blue? Very professional.
Whatever your favorite pen color is, it can get you fired. Yup, you read that correctly. You can lose your job simply because your boss doesn’t like the color of pen you use. The worst part? It’s completely legal because your employer is neither discriminating against you because of your protected class nor your engagement in a protected workplace activity.
All of this concerns workplace retaliation, which is a concept that isn’t as broadly understood as it should be. Let’s take a closer look at it.
What Is Workplace Retaliation?
To most people, “workplace retaliation” seems like it should mean the obvious. It seems like it should mean that an employer has somehow retaliated against an employee for one reason or another, no matter how just or serious.
This isn’t an incorrect understanding of what retaliation is, but it’s an incomplete one. Retaliation at work is a lot more involved than a cause-and-effect sequence, triggered perhaps by something as petty as one’s choice of pen color.
Retaliation occurs when an employer is motivated to act against an employee due to discrimination or in violation of the employee’s rights.
Examples of real workplace retaliation might look like the following:
- A barista gets fewer hours after reporting racist speech overheard at work.
- A transgender receptionist gets fired after presenting as their preferred gender.
- A project manager is demoted after reporting sexual harassment.
- A graphic designer is terminated after complaining about unpaid overtime hours.
- A junior executive is denied health care benefits after disclosing a disability.
In all of these retaliation examples, employees are suffering punishments for things that are much different than their choice of pen color. They are victims of retaliation at work because their employers punished them for reasons based on discrimination or the employee’s participation in a protected workplace activity.
Are You a Victim of Workplace Retaliation?
If you believe you were fired for an illegal reason at work, immediately contact an employment law attorney who can help. We offer free consultations at K2 Employment Law to help our clients get started.
For more information, please contact us online!