What is Retaliation?

Retaliation can take many forms in Indiana workplaces. From being terminated for complaining about sexual harassment to having to work a weekend shift because you took time off for your daughter’s wedding, many Indiana employees feel as if they have been treated unfairly by their employer.

While many types of retaliation are unlawful, most retaliatory actions suffered by Indiana workers are not. The first step in evaluating a retaliation claim is to look at what motivated the retaliatory action. In order for retaliation to be unlawful, the individual making the decision to take action against an employee must be motivated by the desire to retaliate against the employee. The employee bears the burden of proving that.

The employee must also prove the action that motivated the retaliation was protected by a federal or Indiana state law. In the examples above, complaints about sexual harassment are protected by federal law but time off to attend a wedding is not protected by any federal or Indiana state laws. Thus, the first type of retaliation may be actionable whereas the second is not.

The manner in which the employee complains is also an important factor. Complaining about a specific type of conduct that is against the law (i.e. sexual harassment, race discrimination, religious discrimination, etc.) may provide employees with protection while a more general complaint about unfair treatment may not. Complaining to management, human resources, or a government agency may be protected while complaining to a co-worker may not. Complaining in writing may be protected while complaining orally may not.