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Can Retaliation Be Considered Grounds for a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?

Nov 4, 2020 | Wrongful Termination


Employers do not need to give a reason for terminating an employee in Indiana. However, employment law does prohibit employers from terminating employees out of retaliation or discrimination. If you’ve been through a wrongful termination, contact an attorney immediately.

An employer cannot fire an employee for jury duty, refusing to participate in criminal activity, or an illegal act while under contract or out of discrimination or retaliation.

To help you determine whether your termination was wrongful termination, here’s what you need to know about workplace retaliation.

What Is Workplace Retaliation?

Retaliation is when an employer terminates an employee to punish that employee for refusing to take part in illegal activity or for filing a complaint about a manager or working conditions. In short, an employer cannot fire an employee who has exercised their rights.

The law protects employees from wrongful termination in relation to a variety of protected activities.

  •     Refusing to engage in discriminatory behavior
  •     Filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint, starting an investigation, or filing a lawsuit
  •     Reporting discrimination to a supervisor or manager
  •     Making it clear that another employee’s sexual advances are unwelcomed
  •     Protecting another employee from unwanted sexual advances
  •     Discussing wage or employment compensation

One small caveat to these protected activities is that any reports you file of harassment must be in good faith. Otherwise, if you’re making unsubstantiated claims, you could start causing some trouble within your organization or be guilty of defamation.

The important thing to remember when evaluating whether you might be the victim of a wrongful term is that your employer is not guilty of retaliation if you were fired because you neglected your job duties, broke rules, or engaged in any form of misconduct.

A helpful indicator of whether you were wrongfully terminated is whether you received poor performance evaluations leading up to your termination. Your attorney will want to check and see if your poor performance evaluations started only after you engaged in protected activities.

Signs of Retaliation to Watch For

Before an employer terminates your employment, there might be some signs of retaliation. Be sure to document any concerns you have about behavior that appears to be retaliation-related. Here are six signs of retaliation to watch for.

  1.     You get the silent treatment: Some employers start excluding employees who they see as a threat or annoyance. You might notice that you all of a sudden get left off of meeting invites and then see your whole department hosting a meeting that you weren’t even aware of.
  2.     Your job responsibilities change: When an employer doesn’t like that an employee has engaged in protected activities, they might move the employee to another department or shift. It makes it more difficult for you to enjoy your work environment. And it might be all about punishing you.
  3.     The promotion goes to someone else: Sometimes, employers pass over an employee for a promotion out of retaliation. A sign of this is that things are going well for you to get the promotion until you file a complaint with HR about that harassment you’re tired of putting up with. Then all of a sudden, you’re no longer a lead contender for that promotion. The same can be true of pay raises where you’re promised a raise and then don’t get it after filing a complaint.
  4.     The employer demotes you or cuts your hours: Your manager might inform you that you’re required to take a pay demotion, change in job responsibilities, or reduction in working hours to continue your employment. While companies sometimes have to make cutbacks to make it through difficult times, this action should never be tied to you engaging in a protected activity.
  5.     Harassment or bullying increases: After you make a report of harassment or bullying, you might suddenly start seeing even more of that behavior. This might be to make you feel intimidated and rescind your previous reports of harassment or bullying.
  6.     Your employer fires you from the job: This one is a more obvious sign of retaliation. It might be easy to miss some of the other signs listed above, but losing your job is certainly not something you’ll overlook. Don’t just accept the job loss as any other change in employment. It’s unlawful and wrong when it’s done out of retaliation.

How to Get Started with a Wrongful Termination Case

You’ve taken a good next step in filing a wrongful termination case by reading up on signs of retaliation. The next step in getting started with a wrongful termination case is to contact an attorney.

Stewart & Stewart offers a free consultation to get to know you and evaluate the details surrounding your employment termination. We’ll offer our thoughts on the strength of your case and help guide you in collecting the necessary paperwork that will serve as evidence in your case.

You’ll want to be sure to write down as much as you can remember as soon as possible. This might include the dates and retaliation actions your employer took against you.

Schedule your free consultation now to get more details about the next steps in your workplace retaliation case.


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