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Stat of the Week: Retaliation Charges by State

Toby Graham /

Chances are you’ve heard of the Rust Belt and the Bible Belt—the regions of the US characterized, respectively, by economic decline and evangelical Christianity. You may have also heard of the Sun Belt, the portion of the country roughly below the 36th parallel, where the sun’s always shining, business is booming, and everyone’s happily retired.

Well, here’s a new one for you: the Retaliation Belt.

Retaliation refers to the unlawful practice of disciplining or terminating an employee for engaging in a protected activity, such as lodging a harassment complaint, whistleblowing, or speaking out about unsafe working conditions. When an individual believes they have been punished or have lost their job for an illegal reason, they may file a retaliation charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

As you can see in the first graphic here, the number of retaliation charges filed in each state in 2017 varied significantly, and states with higher rates of charges seem to from a downward arc from New York to California. In Florida, for instance, employees filed 3486 retaliation charges last year, while there were just 49 such charges in South Dakota.

But much like the case for the other “Belts,” retaliation charges are a more nuanced phenomenon than a single map can show. As we’ve noted before, retaliation is the most common form of discrimination claim, and our second graphic indicates that this holds true in virtually every state. In Florida, those 3486 retaliation charges accounted for 51% of all charges, while the 49 in South Dakota comprise 70% of all charges filed in that state.

The takeaway: employers should always be careful to avoid a retaliation claim regardless of where they do business.

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