An employer cannot retaliate against a worker for exercising their rights.

The Wage and Hour Division is here to protect your rights.

Most of the acts enforced by WHD have regulations that prohibit retaliation, harassment, intimidation or the taking of adverse action against employees for:

  • Inquiring about their pay, hours of work or other rights
  • Asserting their worker rights
  • Filing a complaint about their worker rights
  • Cooperating with a WHD investigation

What is retaliation?

Retaliation occurs when an employer (through a manager, supervisor, administrator or directly) fires an employee or takes any other type of adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity.

An adverse action is an action which would dissuade a reasonable employee from raising a concern about a possible violation or engaging in other related protected activity. Retaliation can have a negative impact on overall employee morale.

Four Examples of Retaliation

Laws We Enforce

  • Fair Labor Standards Act – The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act – The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act – The Employee Polygraph Protection Act generally prevents employers engaged in interstate commerce from using lie detector tests either for pre-employment screening or during the course of employment, with certain exemptions.
  • Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act – The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) protects migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and recordkeeping. The MSPA also requires farm labor contractors to register with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
  Krispy Kreme

Who is covered?

Any worker protected by any of the individual laws listed above is protected by their anti-retaliation provisions. Coverage differs among WHD’s laws, so please refer to our online resources to determine whether a particular law applies.

  • Coverage under the FLSA
  • Coverage under the FMLA
  • Coverage under the EPPA
  • Coverage under the MSPA

How to file a complaint

  • How to file a complaint
  • Investigation process/what to expect


  • Field Assistance Bulletin 2022-2: Protecting Workers from Retaliation

Fact Sheets

  • Fact Sheet #77A: Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
    • Hoja Informativa #77A: Prohibir represaliar bajo la Ley de Normas Justas de Trabajo
  • Fact Sheet #77D: Retaliation Prohibited under the H-2A Temporary Visa Program
    • Hoja de Datos #77D: Represalia Prohibida bajo el Programa Visado de H-2A
  • Fact Sheet #78H: Retaliation Prohibited under the H-2B Temporary Visa Program

Other Resources

Know your rights: multiple pages, depending on the law addressed:

  • Worker Rights portal
  • Worker Rights cards (by industry)
  • Know Your Rights video series
  • Best Practices to Prevent and Address Retaliation (PDF)
    • Prácticas para prevenir y abordar las represalias (PDF)