Protecting Against Retaliation in the Federal Workplace

It is illegal for employers to retaliate against an employee for acting within their rights when it comes to speaking up about discriminatory practices. Unfortunately, that occasionally offers little protection when it comes to an offended employer. If you feel you were punished because you complained, either formally or informally, about discrimination in the workplace, contact our federal employee lawyers at Pines Federal . We can evaluate your case and honestly advise you as to the best way to proceed with protecting your rights.


Case evaluations can be scheduled by contacting us.


Be Aware of Retaliation for Protected Activity

Federal employees must be alert to instances of retaliation for protected EEO activity. Employees should leverage retaliation claims against a harassing supervisor for protection at work and redress for damages.

It can be easy to catch Agency managers in the act of retaliation, because often, the mere mention of an ongoing EEO claim, and offers of “what do you want for your EEO,” could be a basis to establish illegal “chilling activity” – supervisors may not make statements that scare a reasonable employee from participating in the EEO process, as this is potential grounds for retaliation.

Per Se Reprisal Violations

Per se reprisal occurs when a supervisor’s behavior has a potential chilling effect on use of the EEO process. Ludie M. v. U.S. Postal Service, EEOC Appeal No. 0120170459 (May 9, 2019). Central to a finding of per se reprisal is that the conduct is “reasonably likely” to have a chilling effect on deterring the complainant or a reasonable employee from engaging in, or pursuing, protected activity. Id.

In Kennith M. v. U.S. Postal Service, EEOC Appeal No. 0120181864 (July 19, 2019), the Commission found per se reprisal where complainant stated in his complaint that his supervisor had asked him twice “off the record” about his prior EEO complaints and alleged that his manager asked him three times to elaborate on his prior EEO activity.

Defending The EEO Rights of Other Employees is Also Protected

Keep in mind – EEO activity is not only limited to the employee’s own protected activity, but also extends to defending the EEO rights of others. It also extends to requesting reasonable accommodation, which therefore makes it common that employees needing accommodation for disability often find themselves in an EEO reprisal case as well. 

Adverse Retaliatory Actions Are Not Required to Be “Ultimate Employment Actions”

Furthermore, the EEOC has stated that adverse retaliatory actions need not qualify as “ultimate employment actions” or materially affect the terms and conditions of employment to constitute retaliation. See EEOC Compliance Manual, Section 8: Retaliation (May 20, 1998); Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company v. White, 548 U.S. 53 (2006) (finding that the anti- retaliation provision protects individuals from a retaliatory action that a reasonable person would have found “materially adverse,” which in the retaliation context means that the action might have deterred a reasonable person from opposing discrimination or participating in the EEOC charge process); see also Lindsey v. U.S. Postal Service, EEOC Request No. 05980410 (November 4, 1999).

The statutory retaliation clauses prohibit any adverse treatment that is based upon a retaliatory motive and is reasonably likely to deter the charging party or others from engaging in protected activity. Id.

Once again, anti-reprisal law casts a wide net, and therefore creates relatively strong protections for employees. 

Critically, based on statutory language in §§ 717(a) and 704 of Title VII, and because the federal sector regulation does not require that an adverse action be “because of” retaliation, “but for” causation is not required in the federal sector, and instead the “mixed motives” standard set forth in the Civil Rights Act of 1991 applies to federal sector reprisal claims.

This makes retaliation cases much more favorable to the employee, and signals that the law takes seriously an employee’s right to remain free from reprisal for participating in EEOC protected activity.

We Handle Federal Employment Retaliation Cases Nationwide

Retaliation happens in federal operations nationwide. Wherever you are in the country, we make ourselves accessible to you, so that you can make strides toward the best possible results for this unfortunate situation.

We know it can be difficult emotionally and professionally to pursue action against an employer who has already punished you for filing a complaint. Our job as your federal employee attorney is to counsel you as to the best way to proceed, as well as help prevent any further rights violations from occurring.

Damages sought in retaliation complaints often include:

  • Lost wages due to missed work.
  • Recovery of a job from which you may have been fired.
  • Compensation for the emotional distress of this tense situation.
  • Recovery of benefits denied to you as a result of your complaint.

Don’t Let Fear Rule Your Workplace. Contact Our Lawyers

You are legally allowed to speak up when you feel something is wrong in your federal workplace. Our federal employment attorneys exclusively represent federal employees in retaliation cases, enabling us to offer knowledgeable counsel regarding your particular employment situation. This comes in handy when navigating the complex laws surrounding the federal workplace, especially when it comes to “whistleblowers”, or individuals who have voiced their legal right to protest discrimination.


Schedule an initial consultation today by calling (800) 801-0598 to get in touch our federal employee lawyers at Pines Federal.


Meet Our Legal Team

Eric Pines, Esq. Attorney
Stephen Goldenzweig, Esq. Attorney
Amanda Moreno, Esq. Attorney
Alexandra Schwartzman, Esq. Attorney
Justin Schnitzer, Esq. Attorney
Eve Pachter, Esq. Attorney
Michael Kleinman, Esq. Attorney
Ibidun Roberts, Esq. OF COUNSEL