Retaliation & Discrimination Topics
If your employer is doing something illegal and you report it to the proper authorities, you are a “whistleblower.” For example, you may inform the police a manager is dealing drugs; inform an environmental protection agency your employer is illegally dumping chemicals or inform the IRS your employer is not paying all the tax it owes.
In many cases, your employer cannot punish you for many types of whistleblowing. They cannot fire you, lower your wages, deny you a promotion that you were going to get, or adversely affect your employment in any way. However, only certain types of whistleblowing are protected, and you have to follow a specific procedure. If you feel that your employer is doing something unsafe or illegal, contact an attorney and make sure that your employer will not be able to punish you if you report them to the authorities.
With a few exceptions (supervisors, independent contractors, etc.), your employer cannot punish you for trying to form a union or showing support for a union, and they cannot give you bonuses for withdrawing your support for a union. Employees must be freely allowed to explore their options to form a union, discuss the benefits of union representation and petition the appropriate governmental entities to form a union where none exists. Your employer cannot interfere with, intimidate, or coerce you in any manner for engaging in these activities.
A number of federal statutes make it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees with respect to the terms and conditions of employment on the basis of race (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), age (the Age Discrimination in Employment Act), gender (Title VII), disability (the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act), religion (Title VII) or national origin (Title VII). There are also state laws making such conduct unlawful. Discrimination can take many forms. In the most obvious instances, a person is terminated because they are part of a protected class, ie. minorities, women and foreign born persons. However, discrimination can often be less obvious. An employer may discipline certain races or religions more harshly than others for the same activity. Also, an employer may not promote certain individuals on the basis of their race, national origin, gender or disability. Finally, an employer may choose to pay certain individuals less for the same work on account of on of their protected characteristics. All of those actions are unlawful and subject the employer to possibly being sued.
Discrimination claims often involve agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission before proceeding in court. We have experience handling all manner of discrimination claims before state and federal courts and agencies. An employee who believes he or she was selected for lay off on an unlawful, discriminatory or retaliatory basis may bring a claim under state and/or federal law in a variety of agencies and courts. For more information about federal anti-discrimination laws, go to http://www.eeoc.gov or http://www.crc.ohio.gov.
Sexual harassment can be between individuals of the opposite gender, or the same gender. It generally falls into two categories; quid pro quo and hostile work environment. In a quid pro quo situation, a manager usually propositions a subordinate with a reward for engaging in the desired conduct and a punishment for not. The classic example is a supervisor promising a subordinate a raise or promotion for a sexual relationship; while threatening a demotion or termination if the subordinate does not participate. In a hostile work environment situation, the subordinate is often bombarded with comments of a sexual nature, touched against his/her will, given ongoing propositions for sexual or romantic activity or comments about appearance, manner of dress or perceived sexual activity with others. Both forms of sexual harassment are unlawful and when between a supervisor and subordinate, subject the employer to possibly being sued.
When sexual harassment occurs between co-workers, the standards change. An employee who feels sexually harassed must report the harassment to management. If management takes corrective action and ends the harassment, the employee may not have a claim. However, if management allows the harassment to continue, they may be liable to be sued. If you are being sexually harassed by a co-worker, it is important you make the complaint to management in writing, and keep a copy of your written complaint.
Retaliation occurs when an employee is punished for complaining about an unlawful employment practice; whether about themselves or someone else. Employees are free to report their concerns, even if those concerns are incorrect, without fear or reprisal. For example, if you believe you are being discriminated against because you belong to a protected class, your employer cannot fire, demote, punish, cut your wages, or cut your hours. Doing so would be retaliation. Similarly, if you are standing up for other employees whom you believe are being treated unlawfully, your employer cannot take the previously mentioned negative actions for raising your concerns.
Again, it is important you report your concerns clearly, and in writing, to management / HR and keep a copy of those reported concerns.
Workers’ Compensation Retaliation
Ohio law prohibits employers from firing, demoting or otherwise discriminating against an employee who obtains Workers’ Compensation benefits; or whom the employer anticipates will apply for workers’ compensation benefits. If such retaliation occurs, an employee must inform the employer of their intention to sue within ninety (90) days of the discrimination/retaliation; and file the lawsuit within one hundred and eighty (180) days of the discrimination/retaliation. Ohio law limits what an employee can recover in these cases; and punitive damages are not allowed. Because of the time sensitive nature of these claims, it is essential you immediately contact an attorney if you have been discriminated or retaliated against for filing a workers’ compensation claim.