Workplace Retaliation Lawyers in Texas
In Texas, it is all too common for workers to be retaliated against for alleging discrimination, reporting fraud, rejecting a coworker’s sexual advances, reporting safety violations, refusing to do illegal acts, or taking other reasonable steps that have nothing to do with their job performance.
Thankfully with the help of a Texas workplace retaliation lawyer, Texas employees who face retaliation can take steps to protect themselves, up to filing retaliation lawsuits seeking compensation for their losses.
What is retaliation?
Workplace retaliation is when an employer or superior punishes an employee for actions unrelated to their performance, such as speaking up about a toxic work environment or reporting sexual harassment. Retaliation could take the form of a demotion, pay cut, transfer, reduced hours, or even wrongful termination.
Unwarranted workplace retaliation is illegal under federal employment law, as well as several state laws. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states, “EEO laws prohibit punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination including harassment.”
What are some examples of retaliation?
Here are some of the most common types of workplace retaliation:
- Demotion by removing your reports or subordinates
- Demotion in job duties
- Hostile work environment
- Inaccurate or bad-faith performance evaluation
- Increased scrutiny
- Isolation (e.g., not invited to meetings and other work events)
- Pay cuts
- Physical, sexual, or verbal abuse
- Reduced hours
- Spreading rumors about the employee
- Transfer to a worse position or location
Please note, though, that this is not a complete list. There are many other forms of retribution that could qualify as retaliation in the eyes of the law.
Why do employers retaliate against workers?
A coworker or manager might unjustly retaliate against an employee for doing the following:
- Alleging discrimination on the basis of age, ethnicity, pregnancy, race, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, veteran status, or another protected characteristic
- Cooperating with an investigation into organizational discrimination, harassment, or fraud
- Filing an EEOC complaint
- Opposing failure to pay minimum wage or overtime
- Rejecting or resisting sexual advances
- Reporting fraud (whistleblowing)
- Reporting sexism or sexual harassment
- Requesting accommodations for a disability
- Requesting accommodations for a religious holiday or tradition
- Resisting sexual advances
- Taking medical leave, such as FMLA or ADA leave
In short, if an employee has been punished for something not related to their job performance, it could potentially be considered retaliation.
What is a hostile work environment?
A hostile work environment is one that coworkers and/or supervisors have made difficult or uncomfortable for another employee, often because of discrimination or as an act of retaliaton. Examples of a hostile work environment include:
- Inappropriate gestures or pictures
- Insults or taunts
- Lewd/sexual comments or jokes
- Racist language such as slurs
- Refusing to accommodate disabilities
- Sexual harassment
- Threats or intimidation
- Unwanted physical touch
- Verbal abuse
Often employers foster a hostile work environment because they want to punish a coworker, or because they want them to quit. These actions may qualify as retaliation, which may be illegal.
A hostile work environment can also constitute discrimination or harassment. The EEOC states: “Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.”
Whether what you are experiencing rises to the level of a hostile work environment depends on the totality of the circumstances, which is why anyone who thinks they’ve been victimized by a hostile work environment should contact an employee rights attorney.
What is the EEOC?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a government agency that enforces workplace discrimination laws. The EEOC investigates complaints of discrimination on the basis of protected traits including:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Transgender status
- Veteran status
If the EEOC finds that an organization with 15+ employees – or a labor union or employment agency – has engaged in discriminatory practices, it will try to resolve or settle the charge. If that is not possible, the EEOC can also file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee(s) who were discriminated against.
Can you sue your employer for retaliation?
Potentially, yes. Many acts of retaliation violate state or federal employment laws, particularly if the retaliation occurred after an employee reported discrimination, harassment, or fraud – or if they requested accommodations for a disability or religious observance. In cases such as these, workers should speak with a retaliation attorney who may be able to help them file a lawsuit seeking compensation for the harm they’ve suffered.
What kind of compensation can you recover from a retaliation lawsuit?
Every case is different, but generally speaking, these are the types of damages you may be able to pursue through a retaliation lawsuit:
- Lost wages: Back pay owed if your hours or salary were reduced, or you were fired;
- Pain and suffering: Compensation for the emotional or psychological anguish experienced because of the retaliation;
- Reputational harm: Compensation for any damage your personal or professional reputation may have sustained, which could cause you to miss out on future opportunities;
- Punitive damages: Intended to discourage future abuse by the employer/defendant; and
- Attorney fees and court costs: The reasonable amount incurred in bringing a lawsuit
These damages may range from thousands of dollars to millions of dollars, depending on the length and severity of the retaliation and its consequences, the statute at issue, and the earning capacity of the retaliation victim. An employment lawyer can help you determine if you qualify for compensation, and if so, how much you might be owed.
How do you prove retaliation?
There are many different types of evidence that can strengthen a retaliation case, including the following:
- Emails or messages that contain abusive or sexual language, slurs, threats, or other inappropriate comments
- Evidence of a bad-faith performance evaluation – or evidence that an employee was terminated despite a strong performance/positive review
- Paychecks or pay stubs that prove a worker had their hours or salary reduced
- Witness statements corroborating charges of retaliation, discrimination, and/or a hostile work environment
- Proof that the reason given for termination was pretext (false), and the real reason was in retaliation for protected activity under one or more state or federal statutes
An attorney can help collect the evidence required to win a retaliation case. It can be critical to your case to have an attorney review it as soon as possible. Get a free case review to learn more.
How long does a retaliation lawsuit take?
Retaliation lawsuits can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, but there are steps you may need to take today to preserve your claims. The timing of resolution of retaliation claims depends on the circumstances of the case and how quickly the two sides are able to resolve it.
Most retaliation lawsuits are settled out of court, which is faster – and less risky – than going to trial. In fact, most retaliation claims are settled before a lawsuit is even filed, which means the fact that you hired a lawyer or filed a claim would generally not be made public.
Does Kaplan Law Firm handle retaliation cases?
Yes. Kaplan Law Firm is an employment law and civil rights firm that’s been proudly serving Texans since 2015. Founded by Austin Kaplan in Austin, Texas, our firm has represented hundreds of clients in a wide range of employment and civil rights matters, including claims for retaliation, discrimination, sexual harassment, breach of contract, and wage and hour violations.
We’ve recovered millions of dollars for our clients; received dozens of five-star reviews on Google and Avvo; and our attorneys have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, Fast Company, and on CNN.
Reach out today for a free, confidential case review to see if we can help you recover the compensation you deserve.
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