How to Prove Retaliation in the Workplace

You and your coworkers deserve a workplace where you feel safe, comfortable, and receive fair treatment. When you experience wrongdoings that can affect this, it’s important that you report it so that the actions and behaviors stop and the situation can be remedied. However, this isn’t always how it turns out. Employees may be unfairly treated, harassed, or terminated for reporting discrimination or harassment. This is known as retaliation, and it’s illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who have reported discrimination in the workplace.

If you’ve experienced retaliation in the workplace, you need to stand up to your employer to get justice for the damages they’ve caused you. However, taking legal action can be a decision, and you might be wondering what you need to do to prove that retaliation in the workplace did occur.

You Engaged in Protected Activity

First, it will need to be proven that you engaged in protected activity that later caused retaliation to occur. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protects employees from retaliation when they’ve reported discrimination or harassment, which are considered protected activities. Employees have a right to make complaints and file reports on issues involving discrimination and harassment under the EEOC.

Of course, this doesn’t make all types of employee discipline illegal. An employee may be disciplined for partaking in something not considered protected activity. In this instance, they likely don’t have a retaliation case. You need to be able to prove that you had a valid reason to believe discrimination or harassment was occurring and engaged in a protected activity related to it.

Your Employer Took Action Against You

After proving that you participated in protected activity, you’ll then need to show that your employer took negative action against you. There are many different ways an employer may do this, such as demotions, reducing pay or hours, negative performance reviews, and termination. These actions can cause an employee to suffer financial losses, in addition to other damages.

Your Employer’s Action Against You Was Retaliatory

There are many situations where employee discipline may be called for. Many New York employees may also already be aware that New York is an “at-will” state, which means their employer can terminate them at any time and aren’t required to tell their employees why they’ve terminated them. This doesn’t make all disciplinary actions lawful or allow employers to fire employees for discriminatory reasons.

Showing that your employer took a negative action against you isn’t enough to prove that you were the target of retaliation. The action your employer took against you needs to have occurred because you engaged in protected activity. Finding evidence that the negative action your employer took was due to your participation in protected activity is known as proving causation. Had you not engaged in protected activity, the negative action would not have occurred.

Proving causation can often be a difficult task, but this is essential for helping those who have been retaliated against receive justice. There are a few things that can help show causation. First, did your employer know about your part in the protected activity? Of course, an employer needs to be aware that the protected activity occurred for the negative action they took to be retaliatory.

When the negative action took place can also be a sign that retaliation may have occurred. If this took place soon after the protected activity, they may be connected. Whether or not there were other reasons to discipline an employee also needs to be investigated. If there was a valid reason, it may be unrelated to the protected activity. Much more goes into proving causation, but these are a few factors that will need to be shown.

Have a Retaliation Lawyer on Your Side

Proving that employer retaliation occurred can be a big undertaking. This can require a large amount of work, and the outcome can affect whether or not you receive compensation for the damages that occurred due to it. This is why it’s extremely important to hire a retaliation lawyer if you believe your employer retaliated against you for engaging in protected activity. An experienced lawyer will understand what they need to show that you experienced illegal retaliation from your employer and give you the help you need to win your case.

At Bantle & Levy, we have experience helping employees who have been retaliated against at work and understand the complexities of these types of cases. If you need a workplace retaliation lawyer in New York, contact us today.

Bantle & Levy

Lee Bantle is a partner at Bantle & Levy LLP. He has extensive legal expertise, admitted to the bars of the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. With a distinguished academic background and clerkship experience, he has been recognized as a top-rated civil rights attorney and esteemed lawyer. In addition to his successful career, he has actively contributed to various legal organizations and serves as a faculty member for NYU's Annual Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges.

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