Retaliation – Opposing Workplace Discrimination

Numerous federal, New York State, and New York City laws provide employees with various forms of workplace protections vis a vis their employers.  To promote compliance with and encourage employees to report violations of these laws, many prohibit employers from taking retaliatory action against their employees who raise concerns about conduct that violates them.  For example, it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for complaining about wage theft, acting as a whistleblower, or raising concerns about discriminatory workplace behavior – all of which are considered “protected” activities.

But, what you say and to whom you say it can make the difference between “protected activity” and activity that leaves you unprotected against retaliation from your employer.  This blog, the first in a series on retaliation, focuses on opposing discrimination in the workplace.

Opposing Discrimination in the Workplace

Employees are protected against discrimination in the workplace under federal, New York State, and New York City laws.  Nevertheless, workplace discrimination persists.

Whether you are the target of discriminatory conduct or witness it occurring to others in your workplace, you may feel ethically or professionally obligated to report it.  However, reporting workplace discrimination can be a daunting experience and can result in negative consequences if not handled carefully.  Accordingly, the manner in which you report concerns and/or challenge workplace discrimination is crucial.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), and the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) all prohibit employers from taking retaliatory action against employees for engaging in “protected activity.”

What is Protected Activity?

For purposes of Title VII, the ADEA, the ADA, the NYSHRL, and the NYCHRL, employees engage in “protected activity” by complaining about workplace discrimination.  For instance,

raising concerns about workplace discrimination internally with your employer’s Human Resources Department is typically considered to be a “protected activity” that can provide you with remedies if you are consequently subjected to adverse, retaliatory repercussions.  Filing a lawsuit or administrative proceeding against your employer because you’ve been subjected to workplace discrimination is another form of “protected activity.”  There are a number of similar actions that help stop employment discrimination that can also be classified as “protected activity,” including:

  • Refusing to follow discriminatory orders;
  • Resisting sexual advances and harassment;
  • Requesting reasonable accommodations of your disability; and
  • Providing information and answering questions during an internal investigation regarding discrimination in your workplace.

If you believe that you have witnessed or been subjected to improper workplace conduct and are considering reporting or challenging it, it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible in order to educate yourself about your rights and to get help regarding what actions to take and how best to manage the situation.

What Happens If You’re Punished for Engaging in Protected Activity?

Although it’s your right to oppose discrimination in the workplace, not all employers respect that right.  Unfortunately, you might experience unlawful, retaliatory adverse actions for challenging workplace discrimination, including:

  • A demotion;
  • A reduction in pay;
  • A reduction in hours; and/or
  • Termination

If you suffer an adverse employment action for engaging in protected activity, you may have a retaliation claim against your employer.  Such claims are not uncommon.  Indeed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that 55.8 percent of all charges filed with it during the 2020 fiscal year sounded in retaliation.

Retaliated Against for Opposing Workplace Discrimination? Call Bantle & Levy LLP.

If you engage in opposing workplace discrimination, you are exercising your rights as an employee and shouldn’t be punished for it.  Retaliating against employees for engaging in protected activity is illegal, and if you have been subjected to adverse actions for opposing workplace discrimination, you may be positioned to take legal action against your employer. You shouldn’t have to suffer because you stood up and did the right thing in the workplace.

At Bantle & Levy LLP, we’re dedicated to helping preserve employee rights. If you believe you were retaliated against for engaging in any protected activity (including challenging workplace discrimination), contact us today so that we can learn more about your situation and help you get justice for the wrong done to you.

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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