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What an employee must prove in a retaliation case

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2024 | Retaliation

Retaliation in the workplace occurs when an employer takes adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity. To succeed in a retaliation case, employees must meet specific legal requirements. They also must provide evidence supporting their claims.

Understanding what employees need to prove is helpful for those facing retaliation and seeking legal recourse.

Establishing protected activity

The first step in proving retaliation is demonstrating that the employee engaged in protected activity. This might include filing a complaint with human resources, participating in an investigation or exercising legal rights under employment laws. Documentation of the protected activity can serve as evidence in support of the claim. Documentation may come in the form of emails, reports or witness statements.

Demonstrating adverse action

Employees must also show that their employer took adverse action against them as a result of their protected activity. Adverse actions can take various forms. Termination, demotion, pay reduction and negative performance evaluations are among them. Proving a direct link between the protected activity and the adverse action is necessary for establishing retaliation.

Establishing causation

Causation is a key element in retaliation cases. It requires employees to show that there is a connection between their protected activity and the adverse action taken by the employer. This may involve showing that the adverse action occurred shortly after the protected activity, indicating a retaliatory motive on the part of the employer. Evidence of retaliatory statements or behavior from supervisors or colleagues can also strengthen the case for causation.

Proving pretext

Employees may also need to prove that the reasons provided by the employer for the adverse action are a pretext for retaliation. This can involve showing inconsistencies or contradictions in the employer’s explanations. It can also involve providing evidence that other employees who did not engage in protected activity did not face similar treatment.

By understanding what they must prove in a retaliation case, employees can better prepare their claims and increase their chances of success.