I Reported Discrimination – And Now I’ve Been Fired!
Under federal and state law, you have certain remedies if your employer discriminates against you. These lawsuits are burdensome and expensive for employers, and the prospect of such a suit often leads an employer to commit another transgression--retaliation.
Sometimes, retaliation is obvious, like being terminated after making a complaint. Other times, it can be very subtle with a change in hours or pay. The bottom line is that retaliation is illegal and the law protects you from it.
What is Retaliation?
Retaliation is the catch-all description for any adverse action against an employee after they lodge a discrimination or harassment complaint. This is prohibited whether you make a complaint through your company’s internal procedures or go through a local, state or federal agency. Even if you only went as far as to report the offense to human resources, any adverse action that follows could constitute retaliation.
The protection extends not just to the complainant but also any employee who participates in the investigation. If you were a witness to harassment or discrimination and support a co-worker’s claims, you may have a claim for retaliation if you are fired or demoted shortly after giving your interpretation of events.
Demotion or termination are obvious signs of retaliation. Sometimes, it is not that upfront. For example, a woman may report gender discrimination to human resources. Shortly thereafter, she is moved to another office away from the accused supervisor. On the surface, this appears to be a prudent course of action. However, since it affects the complainant and not the person causing the problem, laws interpret this as retaliation, even though it is unintentional. This gives you a possible cause of action if any remedy focuses on you, the complainant, rather than the wrongdoer.
Laws Regarding Retaliation
New York and federal law protects employees who report discrimination or support the facts of an investigation. Any action that discourages an employee from reporting or participating in a discrimination investigation is frequently actionable.
The laws recognize that retaliation takes many forms and leaves room for interpretation. That way, a scenario is not excluded for simply being unique.
Common examples given by agencies are not intended to be exhaustive but offer guidance. These examples include:
- Termination shortly after a report of discrimination;
- Reassignment to an inconvenient or undesirable location;
- Uncharacteristically low work reviews;
- Unrealistic expectations for work quality;
- Disciplinary action for conduct previously ignored or permitted;
- Pay reduction;
- Failure to promote;
- Denial of pay raise or bonus;
- Exclusion from meetings or communications; or
- Removal of privileges.
This does not shield employees from termination based on performance or other bona fide reasons. For example, if there is a record of work quality concerns before the discrimination complaint was filed, it could be difficult to establish you were the victim of retaliation. That is why it is a good idea to have an attorney review your case thoroughly.
Fired for Reporting Discrimination? Call Today
If you believe your termination or other adverse employment action is linked to a discrimination complaint, it is worth your time to pursue that claim. Successful retaliation actions offer substantial remedies including payment of lost wages, emotional and punitive damages, and payment of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
The Law Office of Christopher Q. Davis is dedicated to supporting employees who are victims of retaliation. We offer a free case evaluation so you can make informed decisions about your options. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule an appointment.