Workplace Retaliation in Arizona

Introduction

Revenge is sweet – at least that is what the old proverb proclaims. What can you do, however, when the person attempting to exact revenge upon you is your supervisor or employer? It is easy for employees in this situation to feel as if they are trapped and powerless – after all, the employer is the one who is able to retain the employee or fire him or her (or so the thinking goes). What rights do employees have against employer retaliation in Arizona, though, and how are any of these rights exercised?

Retaliation Does Not Necessarily Mean Termination

When a person contemplates “workplace retaliation,” he or she may assume that retaliation only consists of termination. That is, a common misconception about workplace retaliation that many have is that an employer can only retaliate against an employee by firing that employee. While it is true that termination or firing is one form of retaliation, it is by no means the only method whereby an employer can retaliate against an employee. Other forms of retaliation include:

  • Failing to promote the employee;

  • Demoting the employee;

  • Cutting the employee’s pay or refusing to grant the employee a raise to which he or she is otherwise entitled;

  • Giving the employee undesirable or extended shifts;

  • Embarrassing or humiliating the employee in the eyes of his or her fellow employees;

  • Assigning the employee undesirable jobs or tasks that are demeaning and not part of the employee’s job description.

retaliation in arizonaIn essence, retaliation can include any negative or undesirable and potentially unlawful consequence imposed by an employer in response to something an employee did or said (or did not do or say). This distinguishes retaliation from discipline, which is an appropriate and lawful response to employee misbehavior. While discipline can be seen as a form of retaliation, it is rare for an employer to suffer negative legal consequences as a result of imposing discipline. For example, while an employee may find a demotion an undesirable consequence for excessive absenteeism, the employer is likely well within its rights to take such an action against the employee.

Activities Protected from Retaliation

There are some actions that are protected under state and/or federal law from retaliation. An employer who retaliates against an employee under any of the following circumstances may face legal consequences:

  • Retaliation based on a protected classification. Any negative action taken against an employee because of that employee’s race, ethnicity, sex, etc. is unlawful workplace discrimination. For example, refusing to promote an African-American employee simply because of the employee’s race is unlawful retaliation and would subject the employer to a lawsuit.

  • Retaliation for reporting a dangerous, discriminatory, or harassing workplace. State and/or federal laws grant “whistleblower” protections to employees who report certain conditions to the appropriate authorities. For example, an employee who reports sexual harassment to the appropriate state or federal agency is usually protected against retaliation by the employer.

What To Do If You Feel You Have Been Unlawfully Retaliated Against

If you feel as if your employer has taken unlawful actions against you, you should report the situation to the appropriate state agency (usually your state’s attorney general) and/or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These agencies will investigate your claim of unlawful retaliation in Arizona and, if unlawful retaliation is found, will attempt to negotiate a resolution between you and the employer. If unlawful retaliation is not found, or if the agencies are not able to foster an agreement between you and your employer, you may be entitled to bring a lawsuit against your employer for damages. If you are successful, you may be entitled to lost pay, punitive damages, and/or reinstatement of your employment. Whatever the situation, always consult experienced lawyers in Arizona.