As an employee, you have both the right and the responsibility to report any discriminatory behavior by your boss, whether it affects you or someone else, to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you suffer bad treatment from your boss after doing so, you may be a victim of employer retaliation.
Retaliation or reprisal by your boss can be overt. It can also be subtle, so much so that you may question whether it relates to the protected activity you engaged in. Regardless, employer retaliation is also illegal. According to the EEOC, there are three things that you will have to demonstrate to prove your case.
- You suffered an adverse action
If your employer engaged in behavior towards you that seems geared toward preventing you or anyone else from reporting discrimination, it could count as retaliation. This can occur after your professional relationship with an employer has come to an end. It need not materially affect the terms of employment, nor does it necessarily involve firing or other ultimate employment actions.
- You engaged in protected activity
This could involve formally participating in an investigation of your employer, acting as a witness or filing a discrimination complaint. It could also involve informally complaining about your boss’s discriminatory behavior without filing a complaint.
- There is a causal connection between the two
In other words, you must provide evidence that the poor treatment you received from your boss was in response to your engagement in protected activity. This can be difficult, but if the behavior started soon after the protected activity took place or other employees in a similar situation received better treatment, it may help your case. Your boss may give an excuse for the adverse action. If you can prove it to be false, that is evidence in your favor.
Sometimes your boss may admit in spoken or written words that he or she took the adverse action because of your protected activity. If so, it amounts to a “smoking gun” that you can use to prove your case.