In many cases, if you fail to show up for work or simply don’t do your job to agreed upon parameters, your employer can fire you or take other disciplinary action against you. There are some actions that you can take on the job that are protected by federal or state law, though, and your employer cannot retaliate against you for those actions. That means your employer cannot take disciplinary action, reduce your pay or fire you if you engage in some of the following activities.
You are protected when making reports about discrimination, safety or financial fraud to the authorities or appropriate government agencies. This is known as whistleblowing, and if you do it in good faith, then you are protected by the law.
You are protected when answering questions asked by authorities or federal investigators in such matters. Note that there is a line here; you are not necessarily protected if you talk to others, such as the media, about such matters. You are, however, protected if you bring up issues to supervisors, human resource departments or other appropriate people in the chain of command and reporting within your company.
You are protected if you resist sexual advances or report harassment of any kind to your supervisor. You can’t be fired because you didn’t agree to a sexual relationship or a date with your boss.
Other activities that are protected could include asking for working accommodations because of religious affiliation or disabilities or asking supervisors about compensation when unfair pay practices are suspected. Some of these activities have more gray area than others, so if you think you have been engaging in protected activities and have been retaliated against, it’s important to understand the law and your rights. Our firm works with you to understand your case and provide advice about the best next steps.