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Victims of retaliation: Save your emails

If you file a complaint against your employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you can become the victim of retaliation. That's when your employer takes negative action against you resulting in harassment and bullying, lower wages, poor work conditions and assignments, unjustified negative performance reviews, demotion, and even firing. Simply put, employer retaliation is revenge. But retaliation in the workplace is not so simple to prove; you must have evidence.

Protect yourself ahead of time

If you've been discriminated against or harassed in the workplace, you may have to file a complaint with the EEOC in order to get it to stop. If so, make your case clearly and prepare for possible retaliation -even if your complaint fails. Planning ahead can help you prove retaliation has occurred.

Here are some steps to take if you think you are the victim of retaliation:

  • Save your emails. Save hard copies of any harassing emails and those that can help prove retaliation. Even if your manager's emails don't seem to directly implicate him or her, they may contain statements involving the loss of a previously planned promotion, veiled warnings and threats, a difference in tone or substance after you've filed an EEOC claim, sudden change in work assignments, unjustified complaints, and even harassment.
  • Copy documents. Photocopy any hard-copy communications and documents, such as performance reviews or pay stubs that can show you've been retaliated against.
  • Check your personnel file. Ask to see your personnel file and copy any documents you are legally allowed to have. If your employer shows you a file with practically nothing in it, they are hiding something from you. Be sure to specify you want the complete file.
  • Recruit witnesses. The EEOC cites a case where a manager blatantly stated he seeks revenge against employees who file complaints. If a co-worker hears a comment that can help your case or witnesses you being harassed, ask them to speak on your behalf.

Gretchen Carlson of FOX News recently received an apology and a $20 million settlement from her employer for workplace harassment. However, too many frustrated employees just walk away when they're being harassed or retaliated against. Letting employers off the hook allows them to continue retaliating against their employees.

If you find yourself facing workplace retaliation, talk to an attorney about what you can do about it. In the meantime, think ahead and be prepared. Keep track of employer actions that have a negative effect on your work experience or your career. Take notes, keep a diary of incidents, and by all means, save your emails.

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