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Retaliation and Whistleblower


Both federal and state laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for engaging in protected conduct. To establish a retaliation claim, your protected complaint must have played a part in, or motivated, the employer’s decision.

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Retaliation Details

Under Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, an employer may not retaliate against an employee who engages in conduct protected by law. Protected conduct includes opposing workplace discrimination against you or another employee, assisting an investigation of discrimination, refusing to engage in conduct you believe to be unlawful, asking your employer about your legal rights, taking protected medical leave, requesting accommodations for a disability, associating with other people of a certain race, sex, national origin, or religion, or otherwise exercising your rights under the law.

Retaliation generally takes the form of a demotion, harassment, transfer, or termination of employment. Even a lateral reassignment can be retaliation if the reassignment impacts your eligibility for promotions or advancement. The Supreme Court has also determined that an employer cannot retaliate by taking action against people who are close to you.

Employees also have the right to organize without employer retaliation. This right includes the right to join or assist labor unions, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other activities for mutual aid or protection.

If you "blow the whistle" on an employer’s illegal activity, you may also have whistleblower protection. A number of state and Federal statutes include anti-retaliation protection for individuals who report violations of the law. In some cases, the law even rewards individuals who blow the whistle on illegal activity. For more information, visit the Whistleblower section of our website.

Examples of Potential Retaliation

Retaliation can take many forms. The Supreme Court has defined retaliatory action as any employment decision that might dissuade a reasonable person from making or supporting a complaint. Examples of retaliation often include:

  • Your employer fired you because you complained of harassment or discrimination.
  • Your employer reduced your compensation or benefits, demoted you, or denied you a promotion shortly after you complained of harassment or discrimination.
  • Your employer has treated you badly because you opposed or complained about discrimination or because you assisted in investigations of possible discrimination.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established. Read full Disclaimer.

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