Retaliation in the Workplace: What It Is and How to Avoid It?

Certain acts in the workplace can push you to want to engage in retaliation at work. For example, getting blamed for discrimination. This is especially painful when you know you have done nothing wrong. It might push you to want to confront the colleague that filed a complaint against you. You must not engage in any form of retaliation. This is not limited to confronting the individual alone. These acts are not permitted under the law and they may cause you further trouble. Various laws address situations like this.

Understanding retaliation in the workplace

Retaliation involves an employer treating employees and applicants less favorably. It may be for any of the following reasons:

  1. Report of discrimination by the employee against such an employer.
  2. Testifying against the employer for a discrimination lawsuit. For example, acting as a witness in the lawsuit.
  3. Championing complaints and reports of discrimination against the employer in the workplace.

An example is firing an employee because he filed a charge of discrimination against you. Even if the court dismisses such charges for lacking merit, you cannot fire such employees. It is regarded as retaliation and prohibited by the law.

Asides from retaliation being prohibited under the law, it gives your company a bad reputation. You should create a safe working environment for your employees. They should be comfortable enough to report any form of discrimination to you. Investigating such complaints makes them feel safe in the company.

Ways to recognize retaliation

There are some signs of retaliation at the workplace that should be noted. Recognizing these signs keeps you safe. It also prevents you from engaging in any form of retaliation. Some of these signs include:

1. A toxic workplace

A toxic and unsafe work environment leads to less productivity. This also leaves the staff unsatisfied. Watch out for any form of verbal and emotional abuse to employees by the head of departments.

Any form of shaming an employee in public and spreading rumors could be a sign of retaliation.

2. Demotion and bad performance reviews

There are some disciplinary actions used in the workplace like a demotion. It is used for employees that go against company policy and rules. There are times bad performance reviews could be a result of retaliation. It could be a manager using this as a tool for retaliation.

It is important to investigate any form of demotion and bad performance reviews, especially if it is unjustified and there is no reasonable cause for it.

3. Decrease of salary

There are justifiable reasons for decreasing employees’ salaries. It could be because of financial difficulty in the company. There are instances where managers use this to retaliate. So the decrease must be investigated especially if it is one employee of the company.

4. Unwarranted termination

There are some legitimate reasons for termination and that can be understandable. Any form of termination springing up as a result of a complaint of discrimination is a red flag. This should be considered a sign of retaliation.

How to prevent retaliation in the workplace

There are grave consequences of retaliation under the law. It is highly prohibited. Avoiding retaliation in the workplace is the best way not to err. You can do this by involving an employment lawyer to help you know ways to prevent retaliation. Employment lawyers have experience dealing with different forms of workplace conflict. So you can be sure your case would not be in any way new to them. They would be in the best position to give advice and educate you on what the law requires of you. 

The following are ways to prevent retaliation in the workplace:

1. Sensitize the employees about retaliation

Ignorance is not an excuse in law and the court will not overlook some actions caused by retaliation. The employees and workers must know that retaliation is illegal. They must be sensitized and informed there should be no form of retaliation in the workplace. The consequences of their actions should also be included in the company’s policy.

2. Have a policy in place that is anti-retaliation

There should be a company policy that prevents retaliation. This should be in force before it occurs. It should also be made available to employees to read and sign at the employment stage. So they are aware of the dos and don’t of the company before accepting to join the company. The policy should include the following:

  • Reasons for prohibition
  • Consequences of retaliation. This should include administrative and legal consequences.
  • Alternative means of handling any dispute without engaging in retaliation

3. Create a safe working environment

Employees should be assured that they are in a safe workplace. They should also be made comfortable enough to report any form of injustice in the workplace. This is by informing them that even if they take actions against the company or their colleagues they will not be punished for it.

4. An effective response to a complaint

They should be a form of human resources department created in the workplace. This department handles the company’s human relationships. They would ensure that complaints against discrimination at work are effectively responded to. This prevents any form of escalation as a result of a non-prompt response by the company. Employees are also assured this way that their questions and concerns are addressed effectively.

5. Hold Managers accountable

Managers in charge of employee complaints should be made to understand their responsibility. Their responsibility is to ensure they prevent any form of retaliation. When retaliation occurs they should be held accountable for not discharging their responsibility.

6. Hold erring employees accountable

You can hold employees accountable for complying with the company’s policies about discrimination. This will help manage any form of retaliation occurring. This is because the company would have effectively addressed the issues before escalation.


Having a bad record for retaliation in court is not a good one. It is best to prevent tainting your record and prevent it before it happens. Hiring an employment lawyer will cost you a fee. 

However, it is best to do this before gaining employment or starting a company as an employer. This makes you prevent any form of paying an additional cost in future for a court case due to retaliation. 

Related Articles

Latest Articles