You tell us that your employer has retaliated against you because you have complained about illegal conduct at work. The illegal conduct may involve age discrimination, race discrimination, sex discrimination, gender discrimination, national origin discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination involving gays or lesbians, failure to pay wages, salary, minimum wage or overtime, denial of pension/401(k) or health benefits or health insurance, or because you have been a whistleblower about illegal conduct. You tell us that after you complained, your employer demoted you, reduced your hours, took away job opportunities or benefits, or fired you. If you complain about illegal conduct, your employer should look into the matter and respond to you in good faith. It is illegal to punish you if you have a good faith basis to complain about conduct in violation of law. That is retaliation and its illegal under employment laws in New York State and New York City.
You are protected against retaliation concerning discrimination claims in situations where you have made a complaint of discrimination, based on a good faith and reasonable belief, relating to a protected category (sex, race, religion, age, etc.) against yourself or others.
When you complain about discrimination, you should try to be specific about what protected category (sex, race, religion, age, etc.) you believe is involved, not merely that you were treated badly, and if possible you should put the complaint in writing. If your employer has written procedures about making a complaint of discrimination, you should follow them. If the company has an employment manual, it will most likely tell you to whom you should make a report of discrimination. If your manager is subjecting you to discrimination, you should go to someone above your manager or the human resources department.
What constitutes a retaliatory action? In one case, a female employee and her fiancee were employed by the same company. After the female employee complained that she had been discriminated against by a supervisor, the company fired the fiancee. The Supreme Court found that it was illegal retaliation to fire the prospective husband. The standard seems to whether a reasonable employee would be discouraged from making a claim of discrimination. The context of the particular case is important. Obviously, such material adverse actions as a reduction in pay, demotion, suspension, and firing would be considered retaliatory. But other lesser actions, when considered together, might also constitute retaliation; for example, in one case, extra unwanted shifts were assigned, favorable assignments and favorable job locations were taken away, and disciplinary letters were given. Each case must be evaluated in its own context, including the amount of time between the complaint of discrimination and the retaliatory acts.
You are also protected from retaliation if you give evidence regarding a co-worker’s discrimination complaint after the co-worker has filed a complaint with a governmental agency or a court. This could include testifying in a co-worker’s discrimination claim.
Nor can a current employer retaliate against you or a prospective employer refuse to hire you because have filed a charge of discrimination against a former employer.
Contact us online or call us at (212) 949-1001 so that we can review if your New York City employer has subjected you to retaliation for when you complain about illegal conduct at work.