Do I have cause to file a employer retaliation claim?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Do I have cause to file a employer retaliation claim?

I told my supervisor
that I was going to
file a hostile work
environment complaint
against him with human
resources. One week
later, before I made an
official complaint, I
was laid off. Human
resources stated the
reason for my lay off
was that my position
was being eliminated.

Asked on April 18, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is no such thing as a general "hostile work environment complaint" as a legal claim: given "employment at will" (the law in this nation), employers and their workplaces may be as hostile as they like. There is no right to a job, and so no right to be treated well or fairly at work. The notion of "employment at will" means that the assumption is that if you don't like where you work, you will look for a different job.
Therefore, as a general matter, you do not have a claim for a hostile work environment and can be terminated despite making such a claim, or even specifically for making the claim, and would not have a claim for illegal retaliation.
The only times you have a claim for a hostile work environment would be if the hostility was directed against you due to a specifically protected characteristic: e.g. race, color, national origin, sex, age 40 or over, religion, or disability. It is illegal to harass someone becaue of one of these characteristics; if the hostiity as directed towards you because of one of these things, then you would have had a viable hostile workplace claim. And similarly, if you were terminated due to (or seemingly due to; i.e. when there is not another good explanation for the termination) presenting a claim for such illegal harassment, then you would in that case have a viable retaliation claim: employers may not punish employees for raising claims that they are being discriminated against due to their race, religion, color, etc.
If you feel that you were targetted specifically due to one of these protected characteristics--and are now being retaliated against for raising the issue--then you should contact the federal EEOC about filing a harassment and also a retaliation complaint.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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