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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Jan. 24, 2023

How to spot and report retaliation

By Arcady Darter, Regional Deputy Director, Region 3, Civil Rights Directorate

As the Civil Rights Directorate’s Anti-Retaliation Campaign continues, today’s topic is spotting and reporting retaliation. Workplace retaliation can take many forms and it is important for employees to understand how to identify retaliation and the ways to report it. But how does one determine if an action is retaliatory? 

3 Elements of retaliation

Retaliation occurs when an employer takes actions or negative behaviors against an employee for engaging in legally protected Equal Employment Opportunity/Equal Opportunity (EEO/EO) activity such as reporting discrimination and harassment or participating in an investigation of harassment. Let’s break down the components of retaliation:

  • First, for an employee or applicant to file a complaint on the basis of retaliation, they must have engaged in a protected activity. This means that the employee asserted their rights by filing an EEO/EO complaint, being a witness to an EEO/EO complaint, or simply contacting the Civil Rights Directorate for information regarding the complaint process. Pointing out exclusionary hiring practices, resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others from harassment or discrimination are also examples of protected activities. 
  • The second element of a retaliation claim is that after engaging in a protected activity, the employee or applicant suffers an unfavorable action from their employer. For instance, adverse actions can include being fired, being passed over for a promotion, or receiving low-performance reviews after speaking out and engaging in a protected activity. 
  • The final element of a retaliation claim is that there is a connection and evidence that shows the adverse action was taken because of the protected activity. This means that the employees’ participation in protected activity motivated the employer’s adverse action or behaviors.

Reporting Retaliation

Choosing to speak up about workplace issues like retaliation helps build a healthy and respectful work environment. Every Coast Guard service member, employee, or applicant has the right to report and file a complaint, cooperate with an investigation, or advocate for coworkers experiencing harassment, discrimination, and mistreatment. 

To report an alleged discriminatory event based on retaliation, contact your local Civil Rights Service Provider (CRSP) within 45 days of the alleged event. Participating in the Coast Guard’s complaint process is protected from retaliation under all circumstances. CRSPs are located throughout the Coast Guard and serve as initial points of contact to help both civilian and military members with EEO and EO processes. Once contacted, the CRSP will provide an in-depth discussion of the complaint process and will also assist the individual by providing information on filing a formal complaint.

Bystanders or witnesses play an essential role in combatting retaliatory behaviors and can report alleged instances using the same processes. 

The next article in the Civil Rights Directorate’s Anti-Retaliation campaign will identify what are some of the best practices that can be taken to prevent workplace retaliation. To read the first article from this campaign, please review the related resources.

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