What Are Retaliation Lawsuits?

Whistleblower laws aim to protect workers from getting fired in retaliation for reporting misconduct within a company or government office.
Retaliation includes wrongful demotion or termination of an employee.
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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
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Retaliation lawsuits are a class of litigations that happen around alleged instances of retaliation by a company or employer against employees. These lawsuits, as they are commonly understood in many countries, happen when a worker, as a plaintiff, sues their employer for some aggressive action by that company or business against them, usually after the employee reports something bad that a business is doing. For example, if a worker reports dangerous product flaws or safety violations, and a company demotes, fires or otherwise punishes him or her, this could provide the basis for a retaliation lawsuit against the company. One reason for allowing such lawsuits is to provide support to employees who become “whistle-blowers,” and to encourage them to inform authorities if their employer is doing something illegal.

Just like other kinds of litigation, retaliation lawsuits are undertaken in different ways in all of the countries around the world. Each national legal system has its own fundamental code, with aspects covering the issue of retaliation, and the relationship between workers and their employers. Looking at a country’s justice system can help show whether the leadership in government is paying attention to potentially illegal behaviors by major national companies.


In general, the legal professionals that represent plaintiffs in a retaliation lawsuit will cite particular legislation that will back up their cases. For example, in the United States, a retaliation lawsuit may be brought based on the Fair Labor Standards Act, which includes protections for workers. Other cases of retaliation may be brought according to applicable ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws, or a part of the legal code called Title VII. In other nations, these lawsuits will be based on different legislation germaine to that country’s legal system.

Although retaliation lawsuits vary in different countries, many of them share some similar characteristics. Retaliation lawsuits generally cover a spectrum of behaviors by the employer, including the reduction of wages, termination, or intimidation or harassment. Any of these three kinds of behaviors can warrant its own specific kind of lawsuits by the employee.

In addition to the above kinds of retaliation lawsuits, modern legal systems now contemplate a separate class of retaliation case, which involves retaliation not against the employee, but against his or her family members. Landmark cases have involved retaliation against a spouse, fiancé, or parent, where judicial officials must figure out whether this action constitutes formal retaliation under their nation’s existing law. These are some of the cases that legal professionals and legislators continue to evaluate in understanding how retaliation litigation should be brought into a modern context.


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