Skip to Content

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Retaliation

A young female waitress serving dinner

The laws enforced by EEOC protect you from being punished, treated differently, or harassed at work because you or a friend, parent, or someone else you closely associate with files a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC or reports discrimination to others. These laws protect you whether you are complaining about discrimination directed at you or discrimination directed at others. These laws also protect you from being punished, treated differently, or harassed at work because you help someone else report job discrimination. We call this your right to be protected from retaliation.

When you file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC or otherwise participate in an EEOC investigation or lawsuit, you are protected against retaliation regardless of the validity or reasonableness of the original allegation of discrimination. This protection applies to anyone who participates in a job discrimination proceeding, including anyone who files an EEOC complaint or a lawsuit, talks to the EEOC, or serves as a witness.

When you report discrimination to someone other than the EEOC, slightly different rules apply. To be protected from retaliation in this situation, you must have a reasonable and good faith belief that the practice you are complaining about is illegal and you must oppose the practice in a reasonable manner. It also must be reasonably clear that you are complaining about illegal job discrimination. If your complaint meets all of these criteria, your employer may not retaliate against you, even if you were mistaken about the unlawfulness of the challenged practice.

Although you are protected from retaliation, you are not excused from continuing to perform your job or follow your company's legitimate workplace rules just because you file a complaint with the EEOC or report discrimination to others. Your employer has a right to expect you to continue to fulfill your job responsibilities.

If you would like more information after reading the frequently asked questions, see the EEOC's Retaliation page.