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If you recently filed a complaint against your employer for a safety violation, wage or hour violation, sexual harassment, or any other issue and shortly after suffered an adverse employment action, you may be a victim of retaliation. Retaliation can interfere with a worker’s ability to make a living wage and find another job. If you believe you are a victim of any of the following forms of retaliation in Ohio, you may be eligible for compensation.
The definition of retaliation is an employer taking any type of adverse action against an employee for engaging in a protected activity. Every worker has the legal right to file a complaint against an employer for unsafe or illegal work practices and environments. Filing complaints regarding a legal or ethical violation is a protected activity under federal law. This includes complaints sent to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
If an employer fires a worker or takes another negative action against him or her for engaging in a protected activity, it is retaliation. Retaliation can hurt the individual employee as well as lower overall employee morale. It is wrongdoing that can give the employee the right to file a lawsuit against the company in pursuit of financial compensation for harm suffered.
Retaliation can take many forms, but one of the most common is wrongful termination. Firing an employee for engaging in a protected activity is against the law. It can be difficult to prove wrongful termination, however, under Ohio’s at-will employment law. An at-will employee can be terminated at any time, for any reason or no reason at all. If the individual who engaged in the protected activity was an at-will employee, he or she will need to prove that the job termination was connected to the protected activity and intended as a form of punishment.
Wage violations are also a common example of workplace retaliation. For instance, a target of retaliation may get demoted or suffer a drop in pay for the same job that he or she had before. An employer could also be more covert about retaliation, using illegal practices such as wage theft or time editing to diminish a victim’s pay. Another tactic is requiring a worker to stay late or work overtime without fair pay. Overtime pay should equal one and one-half the worker’s normal wages.
Another form of retaliation is giving the worker negative performance reviews or evaluations without a valid reason. If the employee had a long track record of positive reviews until he or she filed a work-related complaint, for example, this could be a red flag for retaliation. An unjustified negative performance review could have wide-ranging effects on a worker, including a worse work schedule, a change in hours, a reduction in salary or benefits, or being taken off of special projects.
Some employers choose to retaliate against workers by creating an uncomfortable or hostile work environment for them. This may involve threats, harassment, intimidation, verbal abuse, sexual harassment or assault, and increased scrutiny in the workplace. The employer or supervisor may do this alone or create a workplace culture where coworkers are encouraged to harass or exclude the victim, as well.
If you are experiencing any type of retaliation as a worker in Ohio, you may be entitled to financial compensation. You can respond to retaliation by filing a complaint against your employer with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL will investigate the situation and may step in to enforce federal labor laws.
If you suffered a loss in pay, emotional distress, or another type of harm from the retaliation, consult with an attorney about filing a lawsuit against your employer. You may be eligible for back pay and other forms of reimbursement.