Title VII prohibits employers from retaliating against a current or former employee who complains about unlawful discrimination at work. The complaint may be verbal or written, it may be made to human resources or management; or it may be made to the EEOC. These types of complaints are considered “protected activities”.
Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against a current or former employee who participates in an investigation about unlawful discrimination at the company, at the EEOC, or in court. Participating in these types of investigations are also considered “protected activities”.
For a Retaliation claim, the individual must prove that the employer knew about the protected activity and the employer took an “adverse action” because the individual engaged in the protected activity. The “adverse action” may (but need not) result in termination of employment.
Sometimes employers unlawfully retaliate against a spouse or a related co-worker. This may create a Title VII “Association” claim.
Sometimes employers retaliate against a former employee after the employment ends, often with a bad reference. Any action by a former employer that harms the future employment prospects of a former employee is an adverse employment action. And if it is in reprisal for a protected act and arises out of or is related to the employment relationship, then it is Reference Retaliation.