One of our biggest concerns at Serrins Fisher is protecting workers from employer retaliation. Recently we discussed the ongoing legal battle being fought by a Nassau County sheriff's deputy who says she was sexually harassed at work and retaliated against by her employer. Unfortunately, these problems exist in workplaces throughout New York City, so let's discuss what constitutes retaliation and how it can be stopped.
Laws on the city, state and federal levels prohibit employer retaliation. Sometimes retaliation is obvious; other times it isn't, requiring investigation to obtain proof.
If you file an internal or external complaint -- whether you go through a manager, a human resources department, an outside agency or a court -- then your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you, even if your complaint is never officially substantiated. Your complaint must only be made in good faith.
Retaliation may occur if your employer fires you, demotes you, gives you a negative performance review or gives you a negative reference because you filed a complaint or took off approved time from work. Retaliation may also occur if a manager unreasonably increases your workload.
Sometimes employers retaliate against workers for participating in investigations conducted by outside agencies. However, it should be noted that if you participate in such an investigation, federal law offers you protections only after a complaint has been put on file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The key to proving retaliation is showing that an employer has take adverse action against an employee who participates in a protected activity, such as opposition to workplace discrimination.
To help workers understand their legal options, Serrins Fisher provides a retaliation overview, which has more on the kinds of damages potentially available to employees, as well as the statute of limitations for bringing a claim on the city, state or federal level.