Retaliation in the Workplace
There are many laws that are intended to protect workers and to ensure that employers do not abuse their employees. These laws include anti-discrimination laws, minimum wage and labor laws and laws encouraging employees to report fraud or illegal actions. When employees take advantage of the protections in place, there could be a significant risk that the employer might retaliate against the employees by terminating them, cutting their pay or taking another form of adverse employment action against them.
Retaliation laws seek to stop this from happening. For example federal and state anti-discrimination laws make it illegal for any employer to take retaliatory action against an employee who claims discrimination in the workplace. This means if you make a complaint internally or to government agencies, cooperate in an internal or external investigation of discrimination, or even sue your employer for discrimination, your employer may not take an adverse employment action against you because you filed a complaint , sued your employer, etc. If your employer retaliates against you because you exercised your right, your employer can be sued and subjected to liability under state and federal law.
Proving retaliation and taking legal action can be complex. That makes it very important for you to get legal assistance if you believe you have been the victim of retaliation by your employer. Contact us today at 888-GINARTE (446-2783), or fill out our online contact formto learn more about how our New York and New Jersey employment law attorneys can help you.
What Does Retaliation Mean?
Retaliation is defined as any type of adverse employment action taken against you as a result of your cooperation with or involvement in an anti-discrimination claim. The retaliatory actions may be taken by your supervisor or by anyone at the company that you work for. In addition, if other employees harass you because you’ve made an anti-discrimination claim against your employer, and the employer doesn’t do anything to stop it, this can be a form of retaliatory harassment. If your employer fires you, demotes you, cuts your pay, passes you over for promotion or otherwise allows your claim to impact the terms and conditions of your employment in any way, this can also constitute retaliation.
In some cases, it is easy to identify when retaliation occurs. For example, if you make a discrimination claim against your employer and you get fired the next day, this would be a pretty clear case of retaliation. However, other adverse employment actions taken against you by actions your employer takes can also be considered retaliation, even if they aren’t obviously an adverse employment action and even, in some cases, if your employer wasn’t expressly intending to punish you. For example, if you complained that your boss was harassing you and you were moved to a new work environment farther from your home or switched to a different shift that was less convenient for you, either of these actions could be considered a form of retaliation.
The key question in determining whether your employer’s actions constitute illegal retaliation is whether they have a negative or adverse impact on your job. For instance, if you complain that your boss is harassing you, and your boss suddenly becomes more professional, more distant and less friendly, this change in your employment would not constitute retaliation or an adverse change since your employment situation did not suffer. If your boss suddenly started writing negative performance reviews or reprimanding you, however, this would likely be considered retaliation because it adversely affects the terms and conditions of your job.
When Are You Protected from Retaliation?
There are many different situations in which you are protected from retaliation. For example, if you report that your employer is violating environmental safety standards, federal whistleblower laws should protect you from retaliation. A report of a violation of labor law standards can also result in protection from retaliation.
Even within the discrimination context, there are a variety of different situations in which prohibitions against retaliation come into play. For example, if you make a claim against your employer to the EEOC, the New York State Division of Human Rights or the New York City Commission on Civil Rights, you are protected from retaliation. If you make an internal claim to human resources, you are protected from retaliation. If you are a witness in a discrimination case or if you cooperate in any way with an EEOC, state or internal investigation, you are also protected.
It is important to be aware that the actual discrimination claims need not be proven true in order for you to be protected from retaliation. For example, if you are a witness against your employer or you make a claim for discrimination against your employer, and the EEOC or courts decide that there is insufficient evidence that discrimination occurred, your employer could still get into trouble and be required to pay you compensation if it is determined that your employer retaliated because of the claims made.
Damages in Retaliation Cases
If your employer is found to have retaliated against you, your employer could be liable for the damages it caused you and be required to compensate you for the losses you incurred. You may be compensated for actual financial damage that you suffered as a result of the retaliation, such as by receiving back pay you would have earned if the adverse employment action had not been taken. You may also be compensated for emotional distress caused as a result of the retaliation. An employer may be ordered to pay punitive damages for the retaliatory behavior. If your case goes to trial, a jury may require your employer to pay punitive damages, if your employer’s actions were willful.
Contact the NY/NJ Workplace Retaliation Attorneys at the Ginarte Law Firm Today
Proving retaliation clams can be tricky, especially since it is sometimes hard to demonstrate what an employer’s motives were or whether a particular change in your employment constituted an adverse change. At Ginarte Gonzalez & Winograd, we have extensive experience handling retaliation claims. Contact our New York and New Jersey employment law attorneys today at 888-GINARTE (446-2783) for a free consultation, or fill out our online contact form. We collect attorney’s fees only if you win your case.