Seattle Retaliation Attorney

Disclaimer: The information on this website does not, and is not intended to constitute legal advice. All information on this site is for general information purposes. No reader of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information provided on this site without seeking legal advice from counsel.

ed hones employment attorney

Ed Hones is an employment lawyer in Seattle, Washington, who represents victims of retaliation. The purpose of this page is to provide workers with an easy-to-understand legal framework for retaliation, and to also provide answers to common questions that workers have about retaliation lawsuits. If you believe you were a victim of retaliation, contact Hones Law for a free consultation.

Overview of retaliation law in Washington

In addition to protecting workers from discrimination and harassment, Washington’s anti-discrimination laws also protect workers that report or oppose discrimination or harassment.

Washington’s retaliation laws make it illegal for an employer to take an adverse employment action against a worker for opposing discrimination. Put simply, an employer can’t discriminate against you for reporting discrimination.

Who is protected?

Workers protected by Washington’s retaliation law are any individual employees who have opposed workplace discrimination, filed a formal complaint about discrimination, or participated in a discrimination proceeding.

What activities are protected?

Washington’s retaliation law protects any activity done in opposition to workplace discrimination, or any attempts to remedy discrimination-related problems in a company.

Examples of protected activity under Washington’s retaliation law are as follows:

  • reporting discrimination or harassment,
  • opposing discrimination or harassment,
  • providing information in the investigation of discrimination or harassment,
  • filing a charge of discrimination or harassment,
  • testifying or assisting in a discrimination proceeding.

Retaliatory conduct (AKA adverse employment action)

If a worker engages in one of the protected activities listed above, their employer is prohibited from taking an adverse employment action against them in retaliation. Adverse action in the context of retaliation is any tangible change in employment that would dissuade a worker from engaging in the protected activity.1 Some examples of adverse actions are as follows:

  • suspension,
  • reprimand,
  • demotion,
  • denial of promotion,
  • unjustified negative performance review,
  • termination.

Bottom line

If you engaged in a protected activity and your employer retaliated against you because of it, you likely have a claim of retaliation.

Table of Contents

seattle retaliation attorney
other types of retaliation in seattle

Other types of retaliation in Washington

As detailed above, Washington’s retaliation law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against a worker for reporting or opposing discrimination. However, other forms of retaliation are also illegal in Washington, they’re just not always called “retaliation.” For example, employers are also prohibited from terminating workers in retaliation for engaging in activities protected by public policy. For more information on public policy protections, see my page on Wrongful Termination.

Examples of other protected activities include the following:

  • Reporting illegal activity by employer or co-worker,
  • Reporting unsafe working conditions,
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim,
  • Complaining about an overtime violation,
  • Requesting reasonable accommodations,
  • Requesting a leave of absence,
  • Whistleblowing,
  • Refusing to commit illegal act,
  • Performing a public duty,
  • Exercising a legal right.

Can you sue for retaliation?

Yes, you can sue for retaliation. Retaliation laws make it illegal for an employer to take an adverse employment action against a worker for opposing discrimination or harassment.

In addition, other forms of retaliation are also illegal. For instance, an employer cannot fire an employee in retaliation for reporting illegal activity, reporting safety hazards, filing a worker’s comp claim, requesting reasonable accommodations, requesting FMLA leave, among many other protected activities.

sue for retaliation
retaliation settlement

What is the average retaliation settlement?

The average retaliation settlement is anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000. But the amount of recovery is highly dependent on the facts and circumstances of the case. For instance, what was your salary? How egregious was your employer’s conduct? How strong is your evidence? The answers to these questions will impact the amount you can recover.

See my section below called “How Much Money are Retaliation Claims Worth” to learn more about the breakdown of damages in a retaliation claim.

What are examples of retaliation?

Examples of retaliation include getting fired for participating in any of the following activities:

  1. Reporting discrimination or harassment at work,
  2. Opposing discrimination or harassment at work in any way,
  3. Providing information in the investigation of workplace harassment or discrimination,
  4. Filing a charge of discrimination,
  5. Reporting unsafe working conditions,
  6. Reporting illegal activity of the employer,
  7. Complaining about overtime violations,
  8. Requesting reasonable accommodations,

Just to name a few!

retaliation examples
what is the penalty for retaliation

What is the penalty for retaliation?

The penalty for retaliation under Washington’s Law Against Discrimination is to pay the worker’s lost wages, emotional distress, and attorneys’ fees.2

 See my section below called “How Much Money are Retaliation Claims Worth” to learn more about the breakdown of damages in a retaliation claim.

How much do retaliation lawyers charge?

In most cases, retaliation attorneys represent clients on a contingency basis. That means that the lawyer won’t get paid anything up front, and instead only receives a percentage of what you recover.

However, contingency fees can be a little tricky. Retaliation claims require a lot of time and energy for a lawyer to properly investigate and litigate. Therefore, the value of the retaliation claim has to be significant enough to justify the lawyer’s own investment.

Nevertheless, when contingency doesn’t seem like a viable option, retaliation attorneys like me may be willing to still represent you for an hourly rate.

how much does it cost to hire a retaliation attorney in washington

How do you prove retaliation?

Before detailing how we prove your claim of retaliation, we must first address whether you are still employed.

Scenario 1: You are still employed

While you might think you need to prove retaliation to HR or management, I usually advice clients against it. Going to great lengths to prove something was unlawful while you’re still employed will likely disrupt the work flow, upset management, and paint a big target on your back. 

So, instead of trying to prove anything, I advise clients that are still employed to simply put their employer on notice by making a respectful complaint in writing to HR or management.

Making a complaint like that will do a few powerful things for you. First, it will probably stop the retaliation from continuing. Second, it will dramatically help your retaliation lawyer if it ever comes to filing a claim. And finally, it will demonstrate to the company that you are willing to stand up to them.

Scenario 2: You were fired

If you are not still employed, however, retaliation lawyers like myself have a few tools we use to prove your claim. I will briefly detail a few of them below.

First, we establish the sequence of events. As you know, retaliation requires the company to take an adverse action against you because of your protected activity. Therefore, your lawyer needs to establish that you first engaged in a protected activity, and THEN your employer retaliated against you. Furthermore, proximity in time between your protected activity and your employer’s adverse action helps establish employer motive.3

Second, we look at your job performance. Were you a satisfactory employee before you engaged in the protected activity? If so, when the employer claims you were fired for bad job performance, we can show the jury that the employer is lying. 

Third, we look at the employer’s discipline history. How has the employer disciplined other workers? If the employer claims that it fired you for being late, but we can show that other workers have been late and kept their job, then it’s more likely that the real reason for your termination was your protected activity.

Finally, we show that the employer is lying. In the litigation process, retaliation lawyers have various discovery tools that we use to collect information. We can use these tools to uncover inconsistencies in the employer’s story. When an employer lies about the reason they fired a worker, and the real reason was actually due to the worker’s protected activity, we call that pretext in law, and it wins the case for the worker.

How much money are retaliation claims worth?

Damages generally

Washington’s anti-discrimination statute gives workers the right to recover the “actual damages” sustained by the worker.4 The statute also gives workers the right to obtain a court order stopping future violations and also recover attorney’s fees. But, here, I will only address the “actual damages” portion.

Actual damages in retaliation claims include back pay, front pay, mental anguish, and emotional distress.5

Back pay

Back pay is the amount of pay you lost since the date of the employer’s wrongful conduct to the date of trial. 

For example, let’s say you were making $80K/year at your job when your employer illegally fired you in retaliation for opposing discrimination. Despite your attempts to find a new job, you were unable to find work for one year. In that scenario, you would be entitled to $80K in back pay.

Front pay

Front pay is the amount of future earnings you will miss out on because of the employer’s illegal conduct. You can miss out on future earnings because you had to take a job that pays less, or you can miss out on future earnings because your employer’s conduct diminished your earning capacity.

For example, say you were making $80K/year at your job when your employer illegally fired you. Through your own diligence, you were able to find a new job at a different company, but that new job only pays $60K/year. In that scenario, you would be entitled to the difference in pay between your last job and the new job. The cut-off date for front pay is up to the jury to determine based on your earning potential.6

Emotional distress

Finally, emotional distress and mental anguish are the emotional harms the employer caused the worker. The amount recovered for emotional distress and anguish depends on many factors. Some of those factors include: 

  • loss of enjoyment in life
  • humiliation,
  • pain and suffering,
  • embarrassment,
  • fear and anxiety.

The dollar amount attributable to your emotional distress is highly variant and must be determined on the specific circumstances of your case.

Determining the value of your case

In addition, an experienced retaliation attorney will look at many factors when determining the value of your case. The factors include:

  • The strength of your proof of the employer’s wrongdoing,
  • The amount of lost wages you’ve suffered,
  • The amount of emotional suffering you’ve had to endure,
  • Whether the employer’s conduct was particularly egregious,
  • Whether your case will go before a judge or private arbitrator,
  • Whether your employer is solvent,
  • Whether your employer has a record of mistreating workers.
how much money are retaliation cases worth in seattle

Can I sue for emotional distress from my employer?

Yes, under Washington’s Law Against Discrimination, plaintiffs can recover lost wages, emotional distress, and attorney’s fees. So, emotional distress is one of the categories of damages you can recover.

What is NOT considered retaliation?

Things that are NOT illegal retaliation include getting fired in retaliation for having a disagreement with your manager or coworker. To succeed on a claim of retaliation, you must show that you participated in a protected activity. Protected activities include reporting discrimination or reporting harassment in the workplace. Reporting your manager for being a jerk is not necessarily protected activity.

what is NOT considered retaliation

Is it worth it to sue your employer for retaliation?

The quick answer is “it depends.” Employment litigation is a good way to hold an employer accountable for its wrongdoings. It is also a good way to get fully compensated for the harm you’ve suffered. If you have lost substantial earnings, your self-esteem has been severely impacted, or your career trajectory has taken a significant setback, suing your employer may be a good option for you.

However, if you are hoping to hit the jackpot and retire early, litigation is probably not your best option. Many retaliation cases do not succeed. The court system is not meant to help people get rich, no matter what you may have heard about the “hot coffee case.”

With that said, the civil justice system is an incredibly important component in our democracy. It is one of the only ways a regular worker can hold a powerful company accountable. The court system allows you to tell your story to the public and force powerful companies to change their unfair practices, which in turn prevents harm to other workers and protects the community.

When should you call a retaliation lawyer?

The simple answer is this: Call after you’ve been fired but before you sign a severance agreement.

If you are still employed

Unfortunately, retaliation attorneys are not well equipped to jump in the middle of an ongoing situation. Our tools are far more effective AFTER the harm has been committed.

Therefore, if a worker is still employed and suspects they are the victim of retaliation, I advise them to write a respectful complaint about the retaliation to HR or management.

With a respectful, written complaint to management, you put the employer on notice. That notice will become incredibly helpful to your retaliation lawyer if it ever comes to filing a claim. Furthermore, employers aren’t dumb–they will understand the implications of your complaint, and will likely take action to stop the retaliation at once.

If you were fired

If you were fired in retaliation for a protected activity, you should call a retaliation attorney IMMEDIATELY. At the very least, you should contact an attorney before signing any separation agreement or severance package. 

Employers will sometimes give workers an agreement that eliminates the worker’s ability to bring a retaliation claim. Your right to bring a claim is very valuable, and you should always talk it over with an attorney before signing.

when should you call a retaliation attorney
what makes a good retaliation case

What makes a good retaliation case?

The number one factor in making a strong claim of retaliation is proximity in time between when you complained and when your employer fired you. If you have written evidence of your complaint (like a copy of the complaint) and you can show that your employer fired you shortly after making the complaint, you likely have a strong claim of retaliation.

What is the statute of limitations for retaliation?

The statute of limitations is the deadline to file your claim. If you fail to meet the statute of limitations deadline, your claim expires.

The statute of limitations varies depending on what kind of claim you file and where you file it.

Washington’s statute of limitations

The statute of limitations for actions involving retaliation under Washington’s Laws Against Discrimination is THREE YEARS.7

However, if you choose to pursue your claim with Washington’s Human Rights Commission, you must file your claim with the commission within SIX MONTHS.

Federal statute of limitations

If your claim involves the violation of federal anti-discrimination law, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the ADEA, or the ADA, you must file your complaint with the EEOC within 300 DAYS of the act of discrimination.

Employment Law is my Singular focus

If you were the victim of retaliation at work, you need a retaliation attorney who knows the practice area well and can get you compensation.  

I am a retaliation lawyer in Seattle, Washington, who focuses all my attention on one area of law so that you can rest assured that your case is in the right hands.

Contact Hones Law today for a free consultation.

Ed Hones Seattle Employment attorney

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  1. Tirizuto v. Bellevue Police Dept., 983 F.Supp.2d 1277 (W.D. Wash. 2013)
  2. Clipse v. Commercial Driver Services Inc., 189 Wash. App. 776, 358 P.3d 464 (Div. 2 2015)
  3. Campbell v. State, 129 Wash. App. 10, 23, 118 P.3d 888, 893-94, 201 Ed. Law Rep. 325 (div. 3 200D)
  4. RCW 49.60.030(2)
  5. Clipse v. Commercial Driver Services Inc., 189 Wash. App. 776, 358 P.3d 464 (Div. 2 2015)
  6. Pannell v. Food Services of America, 61 Wash.App. 418, 442, 810 P.2d 812 (1991), review denied, 118 Wash.2d 1008, 824 P.2d 490 (1992).
  7. Crownover v. State ex rel. Dept. of Transp., 165 Wash.App. 131, 265 P.3d 971 (Div. 3 2011).