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Understanding when retaliation violates employment law

Iowans with issues at work, and believe there has been a violation of their employment rights, are often concerned about filing a complaint, due to fear of retaliation. This is also a problem when an employee takes part in protected activities, but the threat of retaliation is in place to dissuade them. However, retaliating against an employee is a violation of the law.

But, there are foundational circumstances that must be in place for there to be a violation of the law against retaliation. This is essential when there is a desire on the part of the employee to file a lawsuit. The severity of the retaliation is key.

If the employer acts against an employee and it is deemed "materially adverse," it is considered retaliation. Part of that includes discouraging a worker from taking part in a protected activity.

Under materially adverse acts, the treatment must go beyond basic employment actions, such as the failure to promote, the decision not to hire, denying job benefits, demoting, suspending, discharging or other acts that fall into the direct category of employment discrimination.

An employer cannot engage in retaliatory acts linked to work or do not directly influence the employment. It can even go beyond the workplace, if it is a dissuading factor in the worker deciding not to partake in a protected activity. The situation will determine if the case includes materially adverse behavior.

For example, a worker who is transferred to a job that is more difficult with worse conditions is materially adverse. In addition, a worker who has his or her pay suspended for more than a month -- even if it was reimbursed -- is materially adverse. A simple act of annoying the worker or giving a moderate penalty is not materially adverse.

Having problems at work can make a person's life difficult. When there is a belief that an employer is taking part in retaliatory behaviors for something the employee did that was perfectly within his or her rights to do, it can be the basis for a legal filing. Having help from a law firm that is experienced in areas of workplace discrimination, mistreatment, retaliation and more can give advice on the case and the viability of filing a claim to be compensated.

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