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MY BOSS SAYS . . .she can demote me, but I think she's retaliating against me.

"Retaliation" has a very specific meaning in employment law. The laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability also make it illegal to retaliate against individuals who oppose unlawful discrimination or participate in an employment proceeding. If you have complained to your employer about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights, participated in a discrimination proceeding (as a witness for example) or otherwise opposed discrimination, your employer cannot retaliate against you.

In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") protects individuals from coercion, intimidation, threat, harassment, or interference in their exercise of their own rights or their encouragement of someone else's exercise of rights granted by the ADA. The Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") also prohibits retaliation against employees for taking leave under the FMLA, opposing employment practices that violate the FMLA, or testifying or giving information with regard to an FMLA violation.

So what is retaliation, exactly? 

Is retaliation a nasty remark by your boss? Or is it something more severe like denying you a promotion?

An employer may be found to have retaliated if it takes an adverse action. Examples of adverse action in employment cases include, but are not limited to: 1) termination; 2) refusal to hire; 3) denial of promotion; 4) threats; 5) unjustified negative evaluations; 6) unjustified negative job references; 7) increased surveillance; 8) an assault; 9) unfounded civil or criminal charges; 10) any other action that would deter a reasonable person from pursuing or exercising his or her rights under the law.

Petty slights, stray negative comments, or snubbing by your employer are not adverse actions constituting retaliation. Nor are comments about poor performance when they are justified.

Whether your employer is unlawfully retaliating against you depends on the circumstances. If you feel you are being illegally retaliated against, as I've described above, and that it is not just a stray negative comment, then you should contact an experienced employment attorney.

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