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What should Michigan workers know about retaliation?

Companies in Michigan are required by law to respect employment rights. They are also prohibited from engaging in illegal activities. An employee who is aware of such violations or has been a victim can report the incident to the proper authorities. However, there are situations where an employee, who is known as a whistleblower after reporting an incident, can experience improper treatment from the company or from superiors. This is referred to as retaliation.

What constitutes workplace retaliation? Retaliation can be defined in three main parts: adverse action, covered individual and protected activity. Adverse action refers to actions that prevent an employee from opposing an illegal activity or violation. An example of this is when an employee is threatened by termination or denial of employment benefits if the employee files or pursues a complaint. Threats and unnecessary evaluations are also considered adverse actions.

On the other hand, covered individuals are those who participated in a complaint, such as co-workers who supported an employee who filed a complaint. Similar to "witness protection" these individuals are protected from retaliation. Finally, protected activity refers to requests for reasonable accommodation because of disability, pregnancy or religious beliefs. For example, if a pregnant employee requests that she be excused from heavy lifting, she should not be fired or subjected to discrimination for this request. This also covers informing an employer, in good faith, that the employer is engaging in illegal activity.

What can Michigan employees do if they feel that they are victims of retaliation? Retaliation is an affront to employee rights. Employees can take their case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for evaluation. If the EEOC determines that an employee's claim is legitimate, the employee can be given protection for retaliation, and an employer can be held liable. Also, employees can be awarded compensation as well as other damages.

Source: Eeoc.gov, "Facts About Retaliation," Accessed on Oct. 2, 2014

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