Dental and Medical Counsel Blog

Defining Workplace Retaliation

February 14, 2018

When it comes to employee disputes, claims such as discrimination and sexual harassment often come to mind. But in reality, retaliation is one of the biggest complaints filed against employers. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 43% of the claims filed in 2014 were based upon retaliation. But what, exactly, does retaliation look like?

Take this example: employee 1 files a complaint against employee 2. You conduct an investigation but cannot find any information or evidence to support the allegations. You decide to reassign employee 1 so she no longer has to work with employee 2. But the reassignment is not beneficial to employee 1, and she accuses you of seeking retaliation due to her complaint. Your actions may have been justified in your mind, and you may have thought that you were acting in the interest of both employees. How can you know whether the actions you take could be considered retaliatory?

The Supreme Court, in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway v. White, defined what must be shown in order for a plaintiff to succeed on a retaliation claim, stating that the plaintiff must show “that a reasonable employee would have found the challenged action materially adverse, which in this context means it well might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.” What this means is that if your actions could be seen by a reasonable employee as an attempt to dissuade them from exercising his or her rights, then you could be in trouble. Note that it is not the employer’s intent which is the primary concern - it is the impact, or perception, of the action taken.

To protect yourself from retaliation claims, adequate documentation is key. This means recording any and all instances of employee misconduct, so that if you are forced to discipline or terminate an employee for any reason you can show that it was not done out of retaliation, but instead was warranted by the employee’s behavior. As always, adequately investigate any and all employee complaints, and consult with an employment attorney when potential retaliation issues arise.

If you would like to learn more about our services and how we can help you or your dental or medical practice, please contact us below to schedule a complimentary consultation with medical and dental attorney Ali Oromchian.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is retaliation in the context of employment disputes?
A: Retaliation occurs when an employer takes adverse actions against an employee in response to their exercise of legal rights, such as filing a complaint or reporting misconduct.

Q: What percentage of claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are based on retaliation?
A: According to the EEOC, 43% of claims filed in 2014 were based on retaliation, making it one of the most common complaints against employers.

Q: How can an employer unknowingly engage in retaliatory actions?
A: Employers may inadvertently engage in retaliation by taking actions that could dissuade a reasonable employee from exercising their legal rights, even if the employer's intent was not retaliatory.

Q: What standard did the Supreme Court establish for proving retaliation in employment disputes?
A: In Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway v. White, the Supreme Court stated that a plaintiff must show that the challenged action would dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.

Q: What is the significance of the impact versus intent in retaliation cases?
A: In retaliation cases, the primary concern is the impact or perception of the employer's actions on the employee, rather than the employer's intent.

Q: How can employers protect themselves from retaliation claims?
A: Adequate documentation of employee misconduct, thorough investigation of complaints, and consultation with an employment attorney when potential retaliation issues arise are essential steps to protect against retaliation claims.


About the Author

At Dental & Medical Counsel, we've been instrumental in realizing the practice goals of countless healthcare professionals. Whether you're looking to purchase, launch, or sell a healthcare practice, our expertise is your guide. Beyond the initial stages, we're committed to ensuring your healthcare practice remains legally compliant.

We provide comprehensive support, including employment law protections, healthcare contract reviews, and assistance with healthcare employment agreements. Additionally, we specialize in incorporating healthcare practices and securing trademarks. And for long-term planning, our services extend to helping healthcare professionals with succession and estate planning. Trust us to be your partner in every step of your healthcare practice journey.

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About Ali Oromchian, Esq.

Your Healthcare Lawyer

Ali Oromchian, JD, LL.M. is the founding attorney of the Dental & Medical Counsel, PC law firm and is renowned for his expertise in legal matters

Ali Oromchian, JD, LL.M., is a leading legal authority in dental law and the founding attorney of Dental & Medical Counsel, PC, with over two decades of experience. His deep connection to dentistry comes from his wife's nearly two-decade-long career as a pediatric dentist. 

This personal insight fuels his dedication to empowering dentists to navigate their legal challenges and achieve their practice goals. In doing so, Ali has helped thousands of doctors open their practices while maintaining legal compliance. 

Ali is frequently quoted and contributes articles to dental publications, including the California Dental Society, Progressive Dentist, Progressive Orthodontists, Dentistry Today, Dentaltown, and The New Dentist magazines, further showcasing his commitment to the dental community.


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