Employees should always feel empowered to speak up when something illegal is going on. Unfortunately, many feel as though they can't report the problems because they are worried that they won't have a job. All employees should know that retaliation isn't legal and shouldn't be tolerated by any worker.
There are a lot of actions that can be considered retaliation. The key in all of these situations is that the worker is facing negative employment actions because they either reported an unlawful activity or cooperated with an investigation.
What is a negative employment action?
A negative employment action can include things like termination, pay cut and reducing the number of hours a person can work. It can also be passing someone up for a promotion they are due to receive or moving them to a shift or location that is less desirable. Even reducing someone's benefits can be construed as retaliation.
Can employees do anything about this?
Even those who live in an at-will employment state have specific rights that protect them from retaliation. In order to assert your rights under the law, you have to be able to prove three specific points.
- Show that you participated in a protected activity, such as cooperating with an investigation or making a report of unlawful activities at the business
- Were punished using a negative employment action
- Prove that the action was because of the protected activity
If you can do those three things, you will be able to take legal action. The goals are to stop the retaliation and to recover any damages.
How can you prove retaliation?
Retaliation at work can be proved using circumstantial evidence, direct evidence or a combination of both. Putting together a timeline of how things happened might be beneficial. It can also help for you to have a copy of your employment record since employers will sometimes claim the negative actions were due to ongoing issues. If they make this claim but your record shows stellar performance, it might be easier to prove retaliation.
There are many types of damages that might be suitable. These can include lost wages and punitive damages. You might also be able to be reinstated if you were terminated. Other outcomes are possible, so you should explore your options under Oregon laws to determine what course of action to follow.