Employees have the legal right to complain to their employer about discrimination or harassment in the workplace and should be able to do so without fear of punishment. However, some employers take action against their employees just for filing a complaint or even just requesting accommodations. If your employer has retaliated against you, talk to an employee retaliation lawyer in Charlotte about your legal options.
The team at Stephan Zouras, LLP in Charlotte, NC has years of experience representing employees against retaliatory practices. Call for help today: 704-612-0038.
How do employers retaliate against employees?
Retaliation comes in many different forms, but occurs when an employer takes an “adverse action” against an employee. Retaliation occurs if the employer does any of the following against a “covered employee”:
- Negatively evaluating or disciplining
- Reassigning the employee to a lower level project
- Reducing pay or benefits
Note: A covered individual is an employee who engaged in a “protected activity,” e.g., reported discrimination, requested accommodation, participated in an investigation, etc.
Why would an employer retaliate?
Any situation that may expose an employer’s unethical or illegal practices or cost the company money may lead an employer to retaliate. Some specific situations include:
- After an employee exposes incriminating information (i.e., whistleblowing)
- When an employee files a workers’ compensation claim
- When an employee reports sexual harassment or assault
- When an employee reports discrimination of any kind
- When an employee requests accommodation for a disability
- When an employee complains about wage theft
Federal Anti-Retaliation Laws
While there is no federal catch-all retaliation law, most federal anti-discrimination laws on the books protect employees from retaliation. For example:
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for complaining about minimum wages and overtime.
- The Equal Pay Act (EPA) prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for complaining about or helping with an investigation regarding wage discrimination.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from any form of retaliation against an employee who complains of discrimination.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who ask for accommodations or support another employee’s right to do so.
- Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for asking to take off for medical reasons.
Employees who file complaints based on the issues above are not the only people protected by retaliation laws. The law also protects anyone who participates in the investigation of the complaint. It even prohibits employers from retaliating against anyone involved with the complaint, even if the complaint is false.
Note: Retaliation can also occur to an individual who the employer has not yet hired. For example, it is also retaliation if an employer refuses to hire a woman because she turned down his romantic advances during the interview or hiring process.
North Carolina Anti-Retaliation Laws
North Carolina employment laws prohibit retaliation in the workplace. Workers receive protection under both common law and statutory law. Common law protects employees from retaliation for the following:
- Refusing to engage in illegal activities
- Refusing to work for an amount less than North Carolina’s minimum wage
- Helping with an investigation
- Refusing to lie on the stand in court
- Refusing to act in a way that would put the public’s safety at risk
Under the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA), it is illegal for an employer to fire or discriminate against an employee for any of the following:
- Filing a complaint in “good faith” concerning workers’ compensation, wages, Occupational Safety and Health Act violations, etc.
- Refusing to comply with a practice that discriminates against a disabled individual
- Testifying (or responding to a summons) under the Employment Security Act
- Reporting a state or federal law violation as an employee of a state agency or department
- Providing information for a Retirement Systems Board investigation
- Assisting or testifying in an investigation relating to toxic or hazardous substances
- “Exercising a right” under North Carolina’s Wage and Hour Act, OSHA Act, or Mine Safety and Health Act
- “Exercising a right” under North Carolina’s domestic violence laws
- Complying with North Carolina’s juvenile code
What should you do if your employer has retaliated against you?
If you believe your employer has retaliated against you, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. Don’t delay. State and federal anti-retaliation laws contain statute of limitations that can range from days to years. Some statutes require that you file a charge with a state or federal agency before you can file your lawsuit. In order to file a successful retaliation lawsuit against their employer, plaintiffs must prove:
- The employer retaliated in a way that is “materially adverse” (i.e., likely to discourage reasonable employees from filing a discrimination charge).
- The employer knew about the employee’s protected conduct.
- The employee’s conduct led the employer’s action.
For example, Sally is an employee who filed a wage discrimination complaint against her employer, Harry. Sally must prove that Harry knew about Sally’s wage discrimination complaint. She must also be able to prove that Harry fired Sally because of the complaint as well as to deter complaints from other employees.
Collecting evidence to prove that your employer retaliated against you can be difficult. You will need documentation that establishes all of the elements listed above. Depending on the anti-retaliation law, if your suit is successful, you may be able to recover:
- Lost wages/lost benefits
- Liquidated damages
- Pain and suffering
- Attorney fees
Where can I get help with my employer retaliation case?
Do not try to file a lawsuit against an employer on your own. You can be sure that your employer will be represented by experienced defense attorneys. You should have that same advantage by hiring an attorney who focuses on representing employee rights. At Stephan Zouras, LLP, you can discuss your case with a knowledgeable employee retaliation lawyer with a free, confidential case evaluation.
Stephan Zouras, LLP focuses entirely on employment law. We only represent employees – never employers. Call us today to schedule a free consultation. We will investigate your claim thoroughly to validate your retaliation claim and may even identify other claims you may have against your employer that you might not even know about, such as wage and hour violations or discrimination.
Protect your rights by contacting Stephan Zouras, LLP today: 704-612-0038.