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Workplace retaliation can have many different faces

It is simple: retaliation is illegal. California employers cannot threaten, terminate or demote an employee in response to the employee engaging in a protected action, such as reporting discrimination. And most employers know this.

However, that is why retaliation is often subtle, making it difficult for employees to recognize it at all. So, what can subtle workplace retaliation look like?

1. Employers exclude you from work functions

Exclusion can manifest in several different ways. For example, employers might not invite the employee to an important meeting or a work event. Essentially, they push the employee out of the loop, so to speak.

Devious employers might try to make this look like an accident, but if this exclusion occurs consistently, it could be retaliation.

2. Or, employers single you out too much

On the other hand, employers might retaliate against employees by singling them out—usually in a negative light. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that it is retaliation if employers put employees under intense and unfair scrutiny. Like exclusion, this can appear in many ways, including:

  • Increasing supervision and management of the employee
  • Criticizing the employee’s work constantly 
  • Giving the employee a bad performance rating, even on good work

3. Employers make work hard for you

It can be difficult to detect this form of retaliation. After all, workloads can get heavy, depending on the time of year and the employee’s specific position.

However, it could possibly be retaliation if the employee notices that:

  • The employer assigns them too many tasks to handle properly
  • These tasks are particularly difficult or complex
  • Other coworkers do not have this much work
  • Their employer refuses to approve vacation or time off
  • Their employer switches their shifts to conflict with the employee’s life events

The employer could be trying to make things stressful and difficult for the employee on purpose, so they quit of their own volition. 

All employees should know what retaliation looks like

It is essential for all California employees to understand what actions could be retaliation, so they can recognize it and take action when it occurs. Proving retaliation can be a complex process, especially if it is subtle. However, as long as employees report retaliation in good faith, then they have the right to take action.