Under both Ohio and federal law, it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee who has engaged in protected activity.
Generally, there are two types of protected activity. The first type of protected activity is when an employee opposes an unlawful employment practice, which is referred to as the “opposition clause.” Even if the employment practice is later deemed legal, an employee may still have a retaliation claim. However, in order to be protected, the opposition must be reasonable. Opposition protected activity occurs when an employee complains to management, other employees, or newspapers about discriminatory conduct.
The second type of protected activity is known as participation. An employee’s conduct falls under the “participation clause” when that employee files a charge, testifies, assists, or otherwise participates in a proceeding, investigation, or hearing conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC), or when an action has been commenced under certain federal or Ohio anti-discrimination laws.
The purpose for the anti-retaliation statutes is to protect an employee’s employment, so that an employee does not feel intimidated as a result of filing charges against their employers. For that reason, courts have extended this protection to employees even if the charge is found to have no merit.
To establish a claim for retaliation, you are required to demonstrate the elements as follows:
If your employer offers a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action, you will be required to demonstrate that that reason is pretextual and that the real reason for the adverse action was your protected activity.
There are more than 40 federal and state anti-retaliation laws that pertain to protected activity. Some require that you first file an administrative charge with the EEOC or OCRC within 180 days of the alleged adverse action. Others allow you to directly file a civil lawsuit without filing an administrative claim.
It is important that you speak as soon as possible with an attorney knowledgeable on employment law, who can advise you of your rights. To request a confidential analysis of your case by an Akron attorney for whistleblowers, you may contact us by email, by completing our confidential Do I Have a Case? form, or by calling us directly at (330) 258-8000.