It is not uncommon for an employer to unlawfully retaliate against an employee not through a single, major act, such as suspension, demotion or termination of employment, but through series of less obvious acts that tend to negatively affect the victim employee’s performance, motivation and cause him or her a significant amount of stress and other psychological problems, which also constitutes unlawful workplace retaliation.
The employer who is well aware of the liability imposed by law for unlawful retaliation at workplace realizes the danger of engaging in obvious retaliation such as terminating an employee. Thus, such an employer may try to punish an employee for opposing an unlawful conduct or exercising rights under Fair Employment and Housing Act or other statutory rights by interfering with that employee’s job performance through series of intimidating, obstructive actions such as giving unreasonably large amount of work or imposing impossible deadlines, issuing false bad reviews after the employee engaged in a protected activity, spreading false rumors about the employee that tend to tarnish his reputation at workplace, and otherwise make the employee life at workplace harder and more stressful, trying force him out.
The courts recognize the above tactics used by the employers and analyze retaliation claims in “totality of circumstances” considering the actions taken by the employer against an employee collectively, rather than deciding whether each individual actions alone constitutes retaliation. Wideman v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (11th Cir. 1998). A court should look at the context and totality of employer’s conduct because “otherwise minor slights, relentlessly compounded may become sufficiently ‘adverse’ to warrant relief under the statute. Simas v. First Citizens Federal Credit Union (1st Cir. 1999).