Have you been terminated, disciplined, demoted, harassed, or denied job training, assignments, or a promotion because you stood up for what you believed was discrimination or harassment in the workplace by participating in a hearing or investigation? Did you act as a witness for a coworker and, in response, receive negative treatment from your employer? If so, you may have a claim for unlawful retaliation.
Retaliation can also come in more subtle forms, including negative or unflattering performance reviews, a combative or generally unpleasant working environment, removing some or all of an employee’s duties, cutting an employee’s pay or commissions, moving an employee’s office or workspace to a less desirable location, or restricting an employee’s ability to do his or her job properly or effectively.
Employees in Wisconsin are protected from employment discrimination and retaliation in the workplace by both state and federal laws. In Wisconsin, the state law is the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA). Under federal law, employees are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. Generally this federal law is simply referred to as Title VII or the Civil Rights Act.
Retaliation Under WFEA & Title VII
When it comes to retaliation, the protections of the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act are virtually identical.
There are 2 forms of retaliation prohibited by the WFEA and Title VII:
- Retaliation based on participating in a trial or investigation
- Retaliation based on opposing discrimination or harassment
What Type of Participation is Protected?
Retaliation based on participation protects an employee from being retaliated against for “participating” in the legal process in any way. Although it is usually seen in the context of retaliation for filing a formal complaint (such as a complaint with the Equal Rights Division or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), it can be result of a wide array of participation.
For example, if an employee files a charge or complaint and the parties agree mediate that charge or complaint, the mediation constitutes “participation” in the legal process. Accordingly, an employer cannot retaliate against you for engaging in the mediation.
Witnesses are also protected from retaliation under this provision. Oftentimes individuals who are still employed by an employer that is the subject of a former coworker’s charge or complaint are afraid of getting involved, out of fear that s/he will be retaliated against by the employer. While we understand that this fear is only natural, as generally individuals are not interested in potentially angering their employer, the WFEA and Title VII have protections built in for such witnesses, in an effort to promote justice in the workplace. So, if you were contacted by a coworker or former coworker for support, remember that the law is on your side and that not many employers are interested in creating more charges or complaints against it.
The Walcheske & Luzi, LLC Difference
At Walcheske & Luzi, LLC it is our pledge to provide open and honest advice, taking the time to listen, counsel, and advise. We will work closely with you to determine if you are the victim of retaliation based on participating in a trial or investigation. Tell us about your retaliation case, we’re ready to help.
Check out our testimonials section, where former clients have described their past experiences with us.