Detroit Workplace Retaliation Claim Attorneys

Detroit Employment Law Attorneys Protect Workers From Retaliation for Exercising Their Rights

Work can feel like a one-sided relationship. Your employer decides where and how long you work, what you do, and where you carry out your tasks. You or your employer may forget that you also have rights as an employee.

Some employers retaliate when employees exercise their rights. They respond by punishing, reprimanding, demoting, or even firing employees. Often, such retaliation violates state or federal laws.

If you have experienced retaliation in the workplace, don’t wait – contact an experienced Detroit retaliation claims lawyer today. Your attorney can help you protect your rights and stand up to your employer.

What Is Retaliation?

Employees have rights guaranteed by federal and state laws. These include the rights to:

  • Raise health, safety, and legal concerns with the appropriate agencies and assist with investigations.
  • Request benefits to which they are entitled, like workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Bring claims against their employers to protect their legal rights.
  • Help fellow employees bring claims of workplace retaliation.

Retaliation occurs when an employee tries to exercise one of these rights, and their employer responds in a way prohibited by law.

Examples of retaliation include:

  • An employer demotes a worker who reported an ongoing safety violation to the local state or federal OSHA office.
  • An employer gives all the most miserable work assignments to an employee who filed for workers’ compensation benefits after an on-the-job injury.
  • An employer starts “losing” an employee’s time sheets – and reducing their pay accordingly – after that employee files a claim alleging sexual harassment by a supervisor.
  • An employer fires an employee who agrees to testify on behalf of a co-worker who has filed a claim for ongoing racial discrimination.

These are only a few examples of possible retaliation. Because every workplace and situation differs, retaliation can take many forms.

Not every step an employer may take counts as retaliation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notes that disciplining or firing workers is allowed if the employer has a reason to do so that isn’t due to retaliation or discrimination. However, the EEOC cautions that “an employer is not allowed to do anything in response to EEO activity that would discourage someone from resisting or complaining about future discrimination.”

Because retaliation can take many forms, pursuing a retaliation claim alone can be difficult. An experienced Michigan employment lawyer can help.

Addressing Retaliation in a Detroit Employment Claim

Like every other state except Montana, Michigan is an “at-will” employment state. Usually, both the employer and the employee have the right to walk away from the employment relationship without notice, reason, or obligation.

On its face, this rule looks fair to both parties. In practice, it often leaves employees at a disadvantage. An employer’s decision to fire often has more severe consequences than an employee’s decision to quit.

Michigan law contains several exceptions to the “at-will” rule. These exceptions come from two sources:

  • Statutory protections: Laws that specifically address protection against discrimination and retaliation.
  • Common law protections: Decisions by the court explaining when firing employees is prohibited for reasons “contrary to public policy.”

Specific Michigan anti-retaliation laws cover several employee actions, including:

If a statute does not directly apply to a case of retaliation, courts examine existing statutory protections, the state and federal constitutions, and past case law to decide whether an employer’s actions are contrary to public policy. Courts try to use these sources as guidance and apply them to the situation at hand.

For example, Michigan doesn’t allow employers to retaliate when an employee refuses to break the law to benefit the employer. Similarly, state law prohibits employers from retaliating when an employee exercises a right provided by state law, such as applying for workers’ compensation benefits after an on-the-job injury.

In both these situations, allowing employers to retaliate would encourage behavior that is the opposite of what the state’s laws try to do. Prohibiting retaliation keeps employers’ conduct aligned with the state’s overall intent.

Some Michigan employers have internal anti-retaliation procedures as well. For example, the University of Michigan maintains a standard practice guide regarding retaliation and related policies. While internal guides don’t have the same force as state or federal law, they can help hold an employer accountable. An employer may be liable when it violates its own retaliation policies, even if no law bars its actions.

How Federal Laws Apply to Detroit Workplace Retaliation

In addition to state laws, several federal laws prohibit employer retaliation. Generally, an employer may not retaliate when an employee brings a lawful claim, asserts a legal right, or participates in a protected activity.

Federal laws that include anti-retaliation provisions include:

Federal laws also protect workers who file workers’ compensation claims, take whistleblowing actions, and bring other types of harassment or discrimination claims.

Each law’s retaliation protections are tailored to the situations that the law covers. For instance, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s retaliation protections focus on financial and business management questions. Those protections don’t address retaliation in other situations, like retaliation for filing a harassment claim.

Because each law contains specific protections, each retaliation claim must be examined individually. The facts of each situation must be compared to the applicable rules. An experienced Detroit retaliation claims lawyer can help you understand how the laws apply to your situation.

All anti-retaliation laws protect workers from retaliation for participating in a lawful complaint or investigation process. For example, anti-retaliation laws protect workers who:

  • File a claim or concern with a local, state, or federal agency responsible for investigating those claims or concerns.
  • Answer questions or participate in an investigation of a claim against an employer.
  • Testify in court against an employer.

Employers may not retaliate against workers who participate in a lawful investigation process, whether or not the results of that process are in the employer’s favor.

What To Do if You Are a Victim of Retaliation

If you believe you are the victim of retaliation, you should consult with an attorney immediately. An experienced lawyer can help you understand the law that applies to your case, gather needed evidence, file claims promptly, and ensure your case proceeds smoothly.

A claim for retaliatory discharge under Michigan state law must be filed within three years of the date of termination. However, in many cases, a specific retaliation law with a shorter time limit applies. Some state agencies also have shorter time limits. For example:

  • Employees filing a retaliation claim under the state’s whistleblower protections have 90 days from the date of the retaliation to file.
  • Discrimination complaints filed with the MIOSHA must be filed within 30 days of the retaliatory action.
  • Complaints regarding wages and benefits must be filed with the Wage & Hour Division within 30 days.

Determining which time limits apply to your case can be challenging, especially when more than one limit might seem to apply. Both state and federal laws contain time limits, which often conflict; this can make the process even more complicated.

At Sommers Schwartz, our experienced attorneys have many years of experience in state and federal retaliation claims, and we are dedicated to helping Detroit workers. We recognize that the deck may feel stacked against you. We’ll share our experience and skills, help you understand your options, and work with you to take appropriate steps to protect your rights. Contact us today to learn more.

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