In order to foster safe and healthy work environments, federal and state laws prohibit companies from retaliating against employees for reporting potentially illegal conduct, such as discrimination or sexual harassment. When employees are subject to illegal decisions, practices, or policies, such as sexual harassment, racial discrimination, or unpaid wages, they often report the conduct to a supervisor or human resources to put an end to such conduct. Unfortunately, instead of putting an end to the illegal behavior, employers all-too-often “fix” the problem by terminating or subjecting the complaining employee to other adverse employment actions. This is known as retaliation, and it is prohibited by numerous state and federal laws. These include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and state common law, among others.

In general, to prevail in a retaliation claim, the employee needs to show: (1) he or she engaged in statutorily protected activity, (2) an adverse employment action was taken against him or her, and (3) a causal connection exists between the two events. It is important to note that an employee is generally covered by relevant anti-retaliation statutes even if the reported conduct does not constitute unlawful conduct. Rather, the employee only needs to show he or she had a good faith and reasonable belief that the complained-of practice or decision was illegal.

If you believe that you have been retaliated against by your employer, contact an employment attorney immediately. Keep in mind if your retaliation was related to discrimination, the employee must file a charge of discrimination describing the retaliatory conduct, and file it with the relevant employment agency. The charge must likely be filed within 180 or 300 days (or even fewer), depending on the type of claim and agency with which it is filed.