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Are you experiencing retaliation for protected conduct?

Perhaps you have worked for the same company for several years, but a new manager is disrupting your formerly peaceful work environment.

You reported illegal practices that took place within your department, an action that falls under the heading of protected conduct, and you believe that your manager is retaliating against you. What should you do?

What happened

You reported incidents that showed a coworker was using “creative” accounting practices to manipulate the quarterly numbers. This not only involved records of false assets that did not exist, but also provided bonuses for employees, including executives, who made the company “look good.”

What resulted

Your manager gave a promotion that you should have had to a less-experienced employee who has been with the company for less than a year. You believe this illustrates retaliation from a person who likely received bonuses until you reported the illegal accounting maneuvers.

What protected conduct means

In addition to opposing and reporting illegal practices, or “whistleblowing,” protected conduct can include participating in legal action brought against an employer. Retaliatory measures may include terminating the employee, refusing to grant reasonable accommodation for an employee in need of it or denying a promotion, which seems to have happened in your case. Retaliation may also include different forms of harassment, such as increasing scrutiny over your work or altering working conditions that would make performing your job more difficult. If you should decide to leave the company, retaliation may follow. For instance, your manager may either give negative information about you in a reference or decline to provide a reference altogether.

What to do now

You can take your concerns to the human resources department, if one exists and you feel comfortable doing so, or pursue guidance from outside the company. Remember that there are both state and federal laws that serve employees who engage in protected conduct, and you have a right to work in an atmosphere free of harassment and retaliation.