By Joy Rhyne Webb, Attorney at Law
“Just be glad you have a job.” If you are currently employed and say anything at all negative about your job, you may have gotten this response. As Americans continue to struggle through tough economic times, those with jobs are often afraid to do anything that will rock the boat and land them out of work before they have another job.
Let’s face it. A lot of people are not happy with their jobs and/or employers right now. In fact, Aflac’s 2012 Workforces Report showed that 35% of workers reported that the company they worked for was not a great place to work and they were “extremely likely” to leave in the upcoming year. But if the reason for the dissatisfaction is due to discrimination, sexual harassment, wage and hour (overtime) disputes, or other illegal actions on the part of the employer, the employee may be afraid to blow the whistle for fear of retaliation.
As a Raleigh-Durham employment law attorney, I often counsel clients on the importance of taking action sooner rather than later. For example, in a sexual harassment case, in order to have a viable claim against the employer, the employee must make it clear to the harassing party that the conduct is unwelcome and the employee also needs to timely report the sexual harassment according to the terms of the company’s sexual harassment policy. Failure to follow the company’s sexual harassment policy could limit an employee’s right to recover damages for the harassment.
There are both federal and state laws that protect employees who report employers for illegal actions. An employee who filed a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC, for example, would be protected under these rules. In North Carolina, the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act or REDA prohibits retaliation against workers who in good faith report the employer for specific violations, including wage and hour claims, filing for workers’ compensation, serving on a jury, etc.
If you are being treated inappropriately at work but are afraid to report the treatment, it may be worth your time to schedule a confidential consultation with an employment law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation and what legal recourse you might have.