Retaliation claims against employers were up three percent in 2011 and more than doubled since 1997, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These claims are present when an employee reports an employer for violating a law. That employee is then considered a "whistleblower" and is protected by both state and federal laws.
Whistleblower protections are applied when an employer fires, demotes or otherwise negatively treats the employee for filing a claim or reporting a violation. This type of action on the part of the employer can lead to retaliation claims.
Changes in How the Court Views Retaliation
The increase in retaliation claims is likely connected to a Supreme Court ruling six years ago.
Essentially, the ruling redefined a retaliation action as one that was harmful to the employee in a manner that would "dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination." As a result, an employee no longer needs to be demoted or fired.
Actions that negatively impact the worker like a transfer, reduced breaks, denial of a request for vacation or previously approved opportunities to leave early to attend children's sporting events could all qualify.
Legal Remedies Available For Victims of Retaliation
Under state law, an employee is allowed to bring a retaliation action up to one year after the violation occurs. If the court finds in the employee's favor, the employee can receive a wide array of judicial relief and damages.
This can include reinstatement to the same position held prior to the retaliation, restoration of lost benefits, back pay along with interest, compensatory damages, reasonable costs and attorney fees.