Retaliation in the workplace

A recent Gallup poll revealed that U.S. workers spend an average of 47 hours per week working. Given the significant amount of time many people spend at work, it’s critical that employment and labor laws exist to account for the health and safety of workers and to protect them from suffering acts of harassment, discrimination and wage theft.

In cases where a worker is propositioned for sex by a supervisor, overhears a manager make derogatory and discriminatory comments about a co-worker or suspects that an employer is taking shortcuts when it comes to workplace safety; employees are encouraged to come forward. Doing so, however, is not without risks and many U.S. workers who take a stand against and report acts of workplace discrimination and harassment are subject to retaliatory actions by their employers.

From a secretary who files a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor and is subsequently demoted to a construction worker who is fired after cooperating in a federal workplace accident investigation, acts of employment retaliation may take many forms. However, any negative action that is taken by an employer in response to an employee’s participation in a lawsuit or opposition to workplace practices is illegal.

Actions that may be considered retaliatory in nature include “termination, refusal to hire and denial of promotion.” Additionally, some acts of employment retaliation are more difficult to prove such as threats, increased surveillance and general bullying. Actions taken by an employer in response to an employee’s complaints may also be considered retaliation.

Say, for example, that an employee complains that he or she is being sexually harassed by a manager. In an attempt to rectify the situation and ensure that the employee doesn’t have to report to the manager in question, an employer may transfer the employee to another department or office. Doing so, however, can be considered a retaliatory action as it directly impacts the employee and not the manager.

New York City workers who believe they have suffered acts of workplace retaliation can obtain answers to their legal questions by contacting an attorney.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Facts About Retaliation,” July 6, 2015, “Workplace Retaliation,” July 6, 2015

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