Can you prove retaliation in an employ at-will state?

On behalf of Fox & Fox, S.C.

Do you believe your employer has unlawfully demoted, terminated or otherwise retaliated against you?

If you have been retaliated against for exercising your employment law rights, such as making a harassment or discrimination complaint, read on to learn how you can prove your claim in an at-will employment state.

What actions are protected?

Wisconsin and Illinois have joined most of the country’s at-will employment law policy. This allows employers to terminate their employees for any reason as long as it does not violate federal employment law rights.

There are several workplace issues that employers cannot retaliate against you for addressing. A few examples include matters, such as:

  • Discrimination against someone for their race, color, religion, national origin, pregnancy, sex or sexual orientation
  • Discrimination against a qualified person for having a disability
  • Unequal pay between men and women who perform equal work in the same workplace
  • Age discrimination against those who are over the age of 40

If you experience any of these issues and make a complaint, it is illegal for your employer to then demote, terminate or otherwise retaliate against you for exercising your rights to take action.

Proving your claim

Because an employer in an at-will employment state could terminate your role for something as silly as disliking your choice of vehicle, it can be difficult to prove that the reason you faced negative or adverse job action is because of a protected action you took.

Timing and record keeping are two important components to attest to your case. If record of your claim clearly correlates with record of the negative job action, the court should see this progression of events. The following resources may help show record of what happened:

  • Official harassment or discrimination complaint(s) to HR
  • Email exchanges
  • Work schedule (decline in hours available to work)
  • Sudden demotion or termination
  • Co-workers and other witnesses
  • Employee work performance data and/or reports

Gather evidence

An attorney can help you gather evidence such as this to prove the following:

  • You made a complaint under a protected act
  • The employer was aware of the complaint you made
  • You faced adversity in the workplace
  • The adversity you face was in response to the complaint you made

If you believe you have been subjected to retaliation in the workplace, Fox & Fox lawyers are here to walk you through the legality of your questions and complaints. We can help you understand your employment rights and build a strong case to secure those rights against any unlawful action that has been made against you.

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