Retaliation can come in 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 WFEA and Title VII are virtually identical.
There are 2 forms of retaliation prohibited by the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act and Title VII:
1. Retaliation based on participation – filing a charge or complaint or participating in a hearing or investigation
Retaliation based on participation protects an employee from being retaliated against for “participating” in the legal process in any way. More specifically, it is usually seen in the context of retaliation for filing a formal complaint, such as a complaint with the Equal Rights Division (ERD) or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
However, it also protects witnesses from being retaliated against for supporting another individual’s charge. So, if a former coworker asks an employee to testify on his or her behalf against a current employer, you are protected from retaliation from the employer under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA).
Retaliation for opposing discrimination or harassment occurs when an employer engages in some form of retaliation in response to a complaint about discrimination, for example a verbal complaint to a manager or an internal complaint to the company. The complaint can be about the individual complaining, or it can be about a coworker.
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