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Types of employer retaliation

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported employer retaliation is the most common type of reported discrimination in the U.S. at the federal level. Retaliation in the workplace can have serious consequences for employees and employers.

It is important to recognize the different ways in which this prohibited action can manifest. By understanding these various forms, employees can better protect themselves and seek the appropriate recourse when necessary.


One of the most direct and severe forms of retaliation is termination. This occurs when an employer dismisses an employee in response to protected activities, such as reporting workplace violations, discrimination or harassment.

Demotion or job reassignment

Employers may also retaliate by demoting an employee or reassigning them to a less favorable position. This can significantly impact an employee’s career and earning potential.

Reduction in pay or benefits

Retaliation may involve a reduction in an employee’s compensation or benefits. This can take the form of a pay cut, loss of bonuses or decreased access to benefits, such as health insurance or retirement contributions.

Isolation and alienation

Employers sometimes use more subtle tactics, like isolating or alienating the employee from colleagues and supervisors. This can lead to feelings of exclusion and make the workplace hostile, ultimately prompting the employee to leave.

Unfair performance reviews

Employees may receive lower ratings or unfair criticism in their evaluations as a means of discouraging their protected activities.

Excessive monitoring

Retaliatory employers may subject the targeted employee to excessive monitoring or surveillance, creating a stressful and invasive work environment.

Change in work conditions

Some employers may change an employee’s work conditions to make their job more challenging or less enjoyable. This can include assigning additional tasks, reducing resources or changing schedules.

False disciplinary actions

An employer may initiate unfounded disciplinary actions or write-ups against the employee as a form of retaliation. These records can have lasting negative effects on the employee’s career and reputation.

Threats and intimidation

Employers may resort to threats or intimidation tactics, either directly or indirectly, to discourage employees from pursuing legal action or reporting misconduct.


In more extreme cases, employers may attempt to blacklist an employee, making it difficult for them to secure future employment in the same industry.

Retaliation is often a response to try to discourage or punish employees for their actions. They can lead to intimidation that scares other employees away from reporting issues in the workplace. Because the goal is to suppress employee rights, retaliation is illegal.