Workplace Retaliation and Demotions

By Gregory Thyberg on August 16, 2019


A woman concerned at a deskWhether you’re a whistleblower or just someone at your company who reports serious issues to HR internally, you are doing the right thing. These actions keep companies and co-workers honest. Yet even if you’re being moral and law-abiding, you may face serious pushback from your company. This is known as workplace retaliation.

Skilled Sacramento, CA employment law attorney Gregory A. Thyberg has seen various kinds of retaliation in his time. He’d like to focus on the use of demotions as a retaliatory tactic, and what you can do if you feel your employer is targeting you.

What Is Workplace Retaliation?

Workplace retaliation refers to various actions made by an employer against one of their workers, typically for whistleblowing or reporting any sort of illicit or unethical behavior.

As an example, say that a person goes to the media and reports that their company has covered up numerous claims of sexual harassment against senior executives. The workplace may retaliate by firing the employee or making the work environment toxic and inhospitable.

Demotions and Workplace Retaliation

We mentioned termination of employment as one way a company can retaliate against an employee. Companies may instead demote the employee who blew the whistle and came forward. The targeted employee may lose leadership or management positions within the company. They could lose their office, holiday bonuses, and other privileges/benefits afforded to people with greater stature at the company.

Sometimes companies will start issuing poor performance reviews to help justify the demotions and cover up the fact that this was an act of workplace retaliation. Whatever the case may be, this is not acceptable behavior by a company, especially when their employee simply did the right thing and made wrongdoing known to the public and the proper authorities.

Lack of Promotion or Raise

In addition to a title demotion, our Sacramento law firm has also noticed that such acts of retaliation may also involve the company withholding a promised promotion or a raise. This is not demotion per se, but these acts operate in a similar fashion. Holding someone’s career back is a subtle form of demotion and needs to be considered as such.

Proving That Demotion Was an Act of Retaliation

The difficulty in many workplace retaliation cases is proving that there is a direct connection between you coming forward against your company and the company taking actions to punish you. As we noted above, poor performance reviews can be used as a cover to avoid accusations of workplace retaliation.

It’s important that you report potential workplace retaliation to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They can investigate your claim and help you continue to keep your employer responsible for their actions.

Demotion May Be One of Multiple Forms of Retaliation

Keep in mind that demotion is just one form of workplace retaliation. You may also have to endure the company spreading rumors about you, being ostracized from company events, the denial of vacation time, and so forth.

If you feel that your company is taking action against you, you can come to our Sacramento law firm after reporting your case to the EEOC. We can help you understand your next steps.

Speak with an Employment Law Attorney

If you have experienced mistreatment at your workplace and would like to learn about legal options to pursue, be sure to contact a skilled employment law attorney. You can reach the legal team at ThybergLaw by phone at (916) 204-9173.

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