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Your protection against retaliation goes on after the job ends

For a lot of people, filing a formal discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or suing an employer for discrimination is often a desperate measure after every other avenue of relief has been exhausted.

It usually doesn't end up being a comfortable situation for anybody involved, which is why it isn't unusual for an employee in that situation to resign and move on if he or she is able, no matter how the discrimination complaint or lawsuit turns out.

If that's your situation, it's important to remember that your protection against retaliation doesn't end just because you've severed your working relationship with your former employer.

This is critical information to know because your future reputation and ability to move forward in your field could be affected if your ex-employer decides to unload his or her frustration at the first opportunity after you're out the door. That first opportunity might come along quickly—especially if you leave before finding new employment and a prospective employer calls for a reference.

For some people, the damage an angry former employer can do can be extensive. If you work in an industry that has a relatively small community of people in it, like a specific area of medical research or a branch of academia, a prior employer's toxic comments about you to others in the field can quickly poison your prospects everywhere.

What actions can be viewed as retaliation by a former employer?

— A negative reference to a future employer based on false or misleading information

— Spreading false information about you to others in your field in order to damage your reputation

— Telling a prospective employer who calls for a reference that he or she can't have one because you have a lawsuit pending

— Refusing to give a reference at all, including verifying dates of employment, for no other reason than to make it difficult for the former employee to prove his or her work history

In general, if you have to file a post-employment retaliation claim, the court will take a hard look at the ex-employer's intent. If it seems like your previous employer's intentions were to retaliate against you and negatively affect your employment prospects or life in some way, that will usually guide the court's decision.

If you believe you've become the victim of post-employment retaliation over a discrimination complaint, the advice and guidance of an attorney can be very beneficial.

Source: FindLaw, "Supreme Court Holds Former Employees Are Protected by Title VII's Anti-Retaliation Provision," accessed Dec. 29, 2016

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