Though Indiana is defined as an "employment-at-will" state, the label is misleading. Employers are still obligated to follow certain rules when it comes to letting employees go. Laws restricting employers from retaliating against employees in a workplace setting have greatly increased over recent years. Such restrictions have come on both a state and a federal level.
Most retaliation claims concern the wrongful termination of an employee who files a grievance against his or her employer for whatever reason. Often such grievances involve workplace discrimination that is taking place that the employer is simply not dealing with. Besides various federal acts such as Title VII, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, there are many whistleblower and workers' compensation laws that prevent retaliation as well.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court case states that employers are prohibited from taking any retaliatory action against an employee engaged in a protected activity - such activities including oral and written complaints. Even if a workplace discrimination complaint is dismissed, employers can still be restrained from retaliating against an employee who has made the complaint.
The time of action taken against an employee is often important in deciding whether retaliation has taken place. The lack of a written policy prohibiting retaliation may also be something that the courts will look at. Courts may also look at lack of training for supervisors concerning what constitutes wrongful termination, policies that are in place but applied inconsistently, or the failure to post procedures in a manner that is known to all employees and supervisors.
Since work is such an important part of our lives and, in the current economy, the loss of a job can have such a devastating impact, employees that feel they have been retaliated against may wish to contact an attorney experienced in wrongful termination cases.
Source: HR.BLR.com, "Retaliation leads the way in workplace discrimination," by Joan S. Farrell, J.D., Jan. 31, 2012