John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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Federal law protects Minnesota workers from employer retaliation

State and federal law protects Minnesota employees from workplace discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, gender, disability and age. Unfortunately, when an employee files a complaint some employers react by terminating the employee or taking other action in retaliation for the employee asserting his or her rights.

This kind of retaliation is a violation of federal law. The laws that prohibit workplace discrimination also prohibit employers from demoting, terminating or otherwise penalizing employees who file discrimination claims. These laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and they are separate and distinct from the laws that protect whistleblowers from retaliation when they raise legal or ethical concerns about an employer's conduct.

Under federal law three requirements must be met for a successful retaliation claim. First, the employer's retaliatory conduct must meet the definition of an adverse action. Adverse actions are defined broadly and include refusal to hire, termination, failure to promote the employee, increased surveillance or unjustified negative employee reviews. Adverse actions do not include petty snubs or negative comments in an employee review that are justified by the employee's job performance.

Second, the employee must be a covered individual, which includes the person who complained about unlawful discrimination, filed a claim or requested reasonable accommodations. It can also include family members and others closely associated with the employee if the employer retaliated against them for actions taken by the employee.

Finally, the retaliation must be in response to the employee engaging in a protected activity. A protected activity includes filing a discrimination complaint, complaining about or protesting discrimination, or requesting a reasonable accommodation for disability or religion.

Retaliation claims can be complex and may involve disputed facts and legal issues. If an employee believes their employer has taken adverse action against them for seeking to enforce their legal rights, they may wish to consult an experienced employment law attorney.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Facts About Retaliation," accessed Jan. 19, 2016

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