Retaliation is an adverse action by an employer against an employee due to the employee reporting the employer for breaking the law.
There are three essential elements of a retaliation claim.
1. The employee participated in a protected activity, such as being witness to a co-worker’s EEOC complaint, filing his or her own EEOC complaint, or reporting an illegal activity of the employer to the proper authorities.
2. The employer adversely treated the employee for the above action. This treatment must be a serious reaction by the employer, such as termination, demotion, discipline, or any event that negatively affects the employee’s wages.
3. There is a connection between what the employee did and what the employer responded with. This usually involves closeness in time, or an actual admission by the employer.
Many states have whistle-blower laws that protect employees, including state employees, from retaliation for reporting a violation of law to the proper authorities. Those state laws are based on this same EEOC analysis.