Can your employer punish you for making a complaint? 

Seeing something happen at work that you consider to be discrimination is a difficult position to be put in. You don’t want to let the conduct continue and you know you should make a complaint but you’re also scared about what might happen to you as a result. Can your employer take it out on you for making a complaint? Is it possible that you might lose your job? 

Fortunately, there are strict employment laws in place that prevent this from happening. 

Employer retaliation is a serious offense

Workplace retaliation occurs when an employee receives punishment as a result of reporting discrimination and harassment or being a whistleblower. Kinds of punishment employees sometimes experience as a result of making a complaint include demotions, cuts in pay or a cut in work hours.

Making a complaint of this nature is called a protected activity. When an employee carries out a protected activity they are, in turn, offered legal protection from retaliatory actions by their employer. To put it simply, it’s against the law for your employer to punish you for making a complaint about illegal or discriminatory actions you experience in the workplace. 

Examples of protected actions include:

  • Resisting sexual advances from another staff member 
  • Acting as a whistleblower or participating in an investigation into your employer 
  • Making a discrimination complaint or reporting discrimination you have witnessed in the workplace 
  • Requesting your employer accommodate your disability or religious practice 
  • Reporting violations of wage theft, or breaches of minimum wage laws, by your employer to the relevant authorities 

You shouldn’t need to be scared of reprisals for reporting wrongdoing in your workplace. If you’re a victim of employer retaliation, there are employment laws that offer you protection

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