Retaliatory Termination: Legal Implications and Employee Rights

Learn about retaliatory termination, your legal protections, and how Waltman Employment Law can help. Discover the steps to take if you face retaliation at work.

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Imagine losing your job simply for standing up for what is right. This is known as retaliatory termination, and it can happen when an employer takes action against an employee for engaging in protected activities such as reporting discrimination or harassment. Understanding retaliatory termination is crucial because it highlights the importance of knowing and defending your rights as an employee.

Retaliatory termination is not just unfair; it is illegal. Federal and state laws prohibit employers from firing employees in retaliation for lawful actions. Many workers may not even realize that they are protected under laws enforced by agencies like the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

At Waltman Employment Law, we are conversant with employment law and are committed to help employees navigate these complex issues. We believe that no one should suffer from unlawful termination, and we are here to support you as your employment law attorney every step of the way.

What Is Retaliatory Termination?

Retaliatory termination occurs when an employer fires an employee as a form of punishment for engaging in legally protected activities. This is a form of wrongful termination that violates public policy.

Common Scenarios Leading to Retaliatory Termination

Retaliatory termination can occur in various situations where employees exercise their legal rights. Here are some common scenarios:

Reporting Discrimination or Harassment

Employees who report various incidents of discrimination or harassment based on race, gender, age, or other protected characteristics may face termination as a form of retaliation.


If an employee exposes illegal activities, fraud, or unsafe practices within the company, they might be fired in retaliation for bringing these issues to light.

Filing a Complaint or Lawsuit

Employees who file complaints with government agencies or lawsuits against their employer for having violated labor laws, such as wage and hour violations, may be terminated.

Participating in an Investigation

Employees who cooperate with internal or external investigations into workplace misconduct or illegal activities can be targeted for termination to punish them for their involvement.

Requesting Accommodations

Employees who request reasonable accommodations for disabilities, religious practices, or other protected needs might face termination if their employer retaliates instead of complying with the law.

Taking Protected Leave

Employees who take leave under laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for personal or family medical reasons can sometimes be terminated upon their return as a form of retaliation.

These scenarios highlight the importance of understanding your rights as an employee. Retaliatory termination is illegal, and knowing the common situations where it can occur helps identify and address such unfair practices. Employers might mask their retaliatory intent behind reasons like poor performance or business needs.

Examples of Retaliatory Actions

Retaliation can take many forms, and it’s essential to recognize them. Here are some common examples:


This is when an employee is moved to a lower position, often with less responsibility and lower pay. If this happens after you’ve reported something like discrimination or sexual harassment, it could be considered retaliation.

Salary Reduction

If your salary is suddenly cut without a valid reason, especially after engaging in a protected activity, this could also be a form of retaliation.

Unjustified Negative Performance Reviews

Receiving poor performance reviews without prior warning or justification, particularly after reporting misconduct, can be another way employers retaliate.

If you believe you were wrongfully terminated, document all instances of retaliation and seek legal advice from firms such as Waltman Employment Law. It’s crucial to understand that retaliatory termination is unfair and illegal. We should all be aware of our rights and take action if we face unfair treatment in the workplace.

Signs You May Be a Victim of Retaliatory Termination

Recognizing Retaliation

Here are a few signs that you may be a victim of retaliatory termination:

Sudden Negative Performance Reviews

If your performance reviews have been positive and suddenly take a negative turn after you file a complaint or engage in a protected activity, this might be a red flag.

Increased Scrutiny

Experiencing increased scrutiny or micromanagement after engaging in a protected activity is common. If your activities are suddenly under a microscope, this could indicate retaliation.

Unjust Criticism

Receiving unjust or excessive criticism unrelated to your job performance can signify retaliation. Look for patterns where the criticism seems out of context or unmerited.

Unfair Scheduling

Changes in your work schedule that seem punitive or disruptive might be a sign. For instance, if your working hours are suddenly changed to less desirable shifts with no logical explanation, consider this a potential warning sign.

Demotion or Loss of Benefits

Being demoted or having benefits reduced after participating in protected activities is a strong indication. Watch for unexplained reductions in your responsibilities or resources.

Isolation From Colleagues

If you’re being excluded from meetings, projects, or social activities at work following a complaint, this could be a clear sign of retaliation.

Tips for Documenting Incidents

  • Keep a Detailed Log: Write down every incident, including dates, times, locations, and individuals involved.
  • Save Correspondence: Keep emails, letters, and other communications related to retaliatory acts.
  • Gather Witness Statements: Collect statements from colleagues who may have witnessed the retaliatory behavior.
  • Consult HR: Report the issues to HR and keep records of these reports and their responses.

We must stay vigilant and document any signs of retaliation to protect our rights and hold employers accountable. Under such circumstances, it’s important to contact a wrongful termination lawyer like the Waltman Employment Law firm to get the justice you deserve.

Legal Protections Against Retaliatory Termination

Employees have several federal laws that protect against retaliatory termination. These protections are outlined in various federal and state laws.

Federal Laws

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, firing someone for complaining about discrimination is illegal. This law covers race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees with disabilities from retaliation if they request reasonable accommodations or report discrimination.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects the employees who take unpaid leave for family or medical reasons. It’s unlawful to retaliate against an employee for exercising their FMLA rights.

State Laws

California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA): This law provides broad protections against retaliation for reporting discrimination, harassment, or requesting reasonable accommodations.

California Labor Code: Various provisions within the Labor Code protect employees who report labor law violations or unsafe working conditions from retaliation.

Employees can file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if they have faced retaliation. The EEOC investigates claims and enforces anti-retaliation laws.

In addition to federal law and state legal frameworks, company policies often include anti-retaliation provisions. These internal policies can further protect employees who report misconduct or exercise their legal rights.

Understanding these legal protections is crucial for employees and employers to ensure a fair and compliant workplace.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the period within which a legal claim must be filed. In employment law, this is crucial because missing a deadline can bar you from pursuing a lawsuit.

In California, the time frames vary based on the type of claim. For wrongful termination under the FEHA, you have three years to file.

For retaliation cases, like those involving whistleblower protection, the statute of limitations may differ. Your window to file a claim generally spans two to three years, depending on the case’s specifics.

It’s important to act quickly. If you believe you have faced retaliatory termination, gather evidence and seek legal advice promptly. Each incident may have unique deadlines depending on the relevant laws and context.

To summarize the filing periods in California:

  • Wrongful termination: 2-3 years.
  • FEHA violations: 3 years.
  • Whistleblower retaliation: 2-3 years.

By being aware of these deadlines, you can ensure you reserve your right to seek justice.

Steps to Take If You Face Retaliatory Termination

Immediate Actions

If you face retaliatory termination, the first step is to document all incidents. Record all events, dates, times, and any correspondence related to the retaliation.

It’s crucial to preserve any evidence, such as emails or messages. This documentation will be necessary for reference in case it goes legal.

You should also report the issue internally to the company’s Human Resources department. This allows the company to address the situation before seeking external help from an employment retaliation attorney.

Filing a Complaint

If internal reporting doesn’t resolve this issue, file a formal complaint with the EEOC or other relevant state agencies. When filing, provide detailed information about the incidents, including your documented evidence.

The complaint process typically requires you to explain what happened, when it happened, and how it impacted your employment. Detailed guidance can be found on the Department of Labor website.

Seeking Legal Assistance

Consulting with an employment lawyer is crucial when facing retaliatory termination, discrimination, or other workplace issues. A lawyer helps you understand your rights, navigate legal processes, and file claims within deadlines, ensuring your case is strong and well-supported. Without legal assistance, you might miss important deadlines or make errors that could harm your case.

At Waltman Employment Law, we are committed to helping employees with these challenges. Our legal team handles retaliatory termination and discrimination cases, providing personalized support throughout the legal process. Contact us today to schedule a consultation if you believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated or faced retaliation.

Consult Waltman Employment Law to Fight Retaliation in Your Workplace Today

Seeking timely help is essential when dealing with workplace retaliation. Delays can jeopardize your ability to file a claim and weaken your case. Consulting with experienced employment lawyers ensures your rights are protected and you take the right steps promptly.

At Waltman Employment Law, we are ready to assist you in fighting retaliation in your workplace. Our legal team is dedicated to provide the support and guidance you need. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step to securing your rights and achieving justice.