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What Retaliation Looks Like

August 29th, 2017 Christopher Davis

There are numerous laws governing an employer’s actions in the workplace. From laws against sexual harassment and discrimination to laws that govern fair wages and workplace safety, employers must maintain compliance if they wish to avoid legal action and fines.

However, if an employer does violate these laws and an employee reports the issue many employers may be tempted to “punish” or “penalize” the employee in some way. This may constitute retaliation, and both federal and New York State laws protect employees against retaliation by their employers. This means that if you report your employer for a violation of state or federal workplace laws, it is illegal for your employer to try to “even the score” or get back at you. Here’s what retaliation might look like in the workplace and what you can do if you believe your employer has retaliated against you.

What Retaliation Is Not

First, let’s take a look at what isn’t likely to be considered retaliation:

  • You report your employer for sexual harassment and they become unfriendly or more cool and professional toward you.
  • You report your company for an FMLA violation and are laid off; however, the company already planned to lay off a number of employees in an attempt to reduce overhead costs.
  • You were transferred to a different department after making a complaint, but the supervisor who transferred you had no knowledge of the complaint.

What Retaliation Is

Now, let’s take a look at what may be considered retaliation:

  • You make a complaint against your employer and after learning of the complaint:
    • Your employer fires you;
    • Your employer passes you over for job promotions or training opportunities;
    • Your employer verbally attacks or abuses you for making the complaint;
    • Other employees or supervisors begin to abuse you or treat you differently;
    • Your employer cuts your pay after the complaint, even though no company cuts were planned in advance;
    • Your employer changes your shift to something less desirable, knowing it would be detrimental to you, g., switching a single mother to the night shift;
    • Your employer demotes you and/or moves you to a different department with fewer opportunities for job growth;
    • Your employer or co-workers harass you online; or
    • Your employer or co-workers damage or steal your property.

Many actions or chain of events can be considered retaliatory – there’s no one set list of behaviors that meet the legal definition. However, certain criteria are required for unlawful retaliation to be deemed to have taken place, including: a protected act (such as making a specific complaint that reports your employer for violations of an employment law, or the rejection of a sexual advance), a direct and harmful action against you by your employer, and, finally, a causal link between your action and your employer’s reaction (such as a short time period between your complaint and any negative action by your employer).

If you believe you may have been the victim of retaliation by your employer, don’t wait to get legal help. Contact The Working Solutions Law Firm, PLLC today to find out what your legal rights are at (646) 430-7930.