The laws prohibit punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination including harassment. Asserting these equal employment rights is called “protected activity,” and it can take many forms.
It is unlawful to retaliate against applicants or employees for (examples below):
filing or being a witness in a complaint, investigation or a charge of discrimination, harassment or a lawsuit.
- communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment.
- asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages.
- Participating in or answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment.
- refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination, harassment or retaliation.
- resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others from same.
- requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice.
Participating in a complaint process is protected from retaliation under all circumstances. Other acts to oppose discrimination are protected as long as the employee was acting on a reasonable belief that something in the workplace may violate EEO laws, even if he or she did not use legal terminology to describe it.
Note that, engaging in a protected activity, however, does not shield an employee from all discipline or discharge. Employers are free to discipline or terminate workers if motivated by non-retaliatory and non-discriminatory reasons that would otherwise result in such consequences. However, an employer is not allowed to do anything in response to equal employment activity that would discourage someone from resisting or complaining about future discrimination.
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