“How do I respond to retaliation for filing a complaint of unlawful discrimination?”

Question: I was recently fired from my job – by certified mail – effective the end of this month.

This followed my reporting one of my supervisors’ illegal discrimination, for which the company “pulled her aside,” but didn’t seem to really investigate what happened, or punish her in any way. Soon after that, my hours were cut by 20%. 

Then I complained about that, because it seemed like retaliation to me, and they simply cut my hours even more. 

My hours were then cut down to below 50%, making me ineligible for unemployment insurance.

With my notice of being fired that came from Human Resources, I was given a form that explained that, under the law, I had 180 days to take legal action if I thought it was justified.

Any ideas of what I can, or should do?

Muskegon, Michigan

Answer: Dear Eric, From the sounds of it, you may have been retaliated against for your complaints of discrimination. Here’s a few thoughts that might help you.

a. It is illegal to retaliate against someone for reporting, or complaining about, illegal discrimination. Under federal and state laws, it is illegal in every state to discriminate in employment matters on certain bases, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, disability, pregnancy, and other criteria. It is also illegal to retaliate against people who object to, or complain of, such discrimination. From your letter, it sounds like this may have happened to you. 

b. Such retaliation is illegal even if it turns out there was no illegal discrimination in the first place. Many people don’t know it, but it is illegal to retaliate against a person for objecting to, or reporting, illegal discrimination, even if it turns out they were wrong about the religious discrimination. In a case of a New Jersey news reporter who filed a complaint for illegal religious discrimination, a jury concluded that she was wrong, but nonetheless awarded her $5.5 million for illegal retaliation against her for complaining about the incident.
c. Information about the time limits, and procedure, for filing a formal complaint of illegal discrimination or retaliation in Michigan is available online. I am not licensed to practice law in Michigan, and so cannot advise you as to that state’s laws. However, a great deal of practical and valuable information can be found on this State of Michigan website:  www.michigan.gov/mdcr

d. We offer the names, and information about, experienced employment attorneys in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area, where you live. On our Attorney Referral page, we offer the names and information about experienced employment attorneys in many U.S. cities, including Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is in your “neck of the woods.”

If you are interested in obtaining names and information about experienced employment attorneys in your area [click here].

I find illegal discrimination to be based in ignorance and a type of evil. I find retaliation against those who stand up to it to be even worse. I applaud you and every person who stands up for themselves, and in that way, for all of us.

Good luck to you.

          Best, Al Sklover

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.