Employers are prohibited from taking an adverse employment action against an employee because the employee engaged in certain “protected activities.” Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit an employer from taking an adverse employment action against an employee for registering an internal discrimination complaint, filing a Charge of Discrimination, or testifying or otherwise participating in an agency investigation. EEOC-Fact-Sheet-Retaliation. The Occupational Safety and Health Act provides employees with protection against retaliation for complaining about unsafe work practices. The Family and Medical Leave Act makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for taking protected medical leaves of absence. The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits an employer from subjecting an employee to an adverse employment action due to complaints about unlawful wage practices. Colorado state law prohibits employers from taking action against an employee for exercising certain work-related rights or privileges (such as filing a workers’ compensation claim) and making complaints in the public interest (such as complaints about fraudulent accounting practices).
These are only a few of the laws prohibiting retaliation in the workplace. There are literally dozens of federal and state anti-retaliation or whistle-blower laws that may serve as the basis for a retaliation claim. Some require that, before a court action with a retaliation claim may be filed, an employee must first file an administrative charge with the EEOC or another governmental agency within a short time frame. Other laws allow employees to directly file a civil action without first filing an administrative claim. In the event they prevail on a retaliation claim, employees may normally recover back pay, lost benefits, front pay, emotional distress damages, punitive damages and, in some cases, attorneys’ fees and costs.
In a 2006 decision, the United States Supreme Court lowered the standard for a retaliation claim under the federal anti-discrimination statutes. The Supreme Court determined that, in order to assert a retaliation claim, an employee need only show that the employer took an action that “well might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.” Additionally, the standard for proving a causal connection is not high. For example, suspicious timing between the protected activity and adverse employment action may be sufficient, by itself, to allow employees their day in court.
Employees are increasingly asserting retaliation claims against employers both before administrative agencies and in Court. In addition, statistics have shown that retaliation claims are among the most dangerous for employers, both in terms of the numbers of adverse verdicts against employers and the size of the verdicts.
If you have any questions regarding a potential retaliation claim, please contact one of Baird Quinn’s Colorado retaliation lawyers. We have substantial experience representing employers and employees in the evaluation and litigation of retaliation claims. You may obtain additional information regarding our retaliation lawyers at the following link.