Employees have certain rights that are protected by law. Those rights include things like the ability time off work for pregnancy and protection from retaliation after reporting harassment, discrimination and unsafe work conditions. Employers are required to respect those rights. However, in some cases, employers could respond to the exercise of those rights poorly and might take against the employee.
The Supreme Court has ruled that employees can sue an employer if they feel that the employer took retaliatory actions. To do so, the retaliation must meet a few criteria. First, the employee must show that they participated in protected conduct. This could include taking maternity leave, taking time off to vote or demanding overtime pay for extra hours worked. The employee must then also show that he or she suffered adverse employment action and that there was a direct connection between the exercise of the protected behavior and the adverse action.
Most people think of things like wrongful termination, pay cuts or promotion rejections as adverse actions. However, in the Supreme Court case, the justices ruled that even being transferred to another department could be an adverse action. In that case, a woman complained of being sexually harassed by her supervisor. The supervisor was disciplined, but the woman was also suspended and transferred to a more physically demanding job. The court agreed that those actions counted as retaliation against the employee.
The validity of retaliation cases can vary widely depending on the circumstances. Some employees may be right in their assessment. However, in other cases, the two actions may have no relationship at all or may not meet the standard for retaliation. An experienced employment lawyer could help an employee better understand whether they have a strong case and what the best course of action would be.