Important Reasons for Employers to Avoid Retaliation
Retaliation in the workplace is unlawful. Therefore, as a business owner it is important to understand what it is and to avoid it. Employers violate the law if they retaliate against an employee who has engaged in “protected activity” under the New York City Human Rights Law or forbidden activities under the Law.
What Does Retaliation Mean?
“Retaliation” in a legal sense refers to “punishment of an employee by an employer for engaging in legally protected activity such as making a complaint of harassment or participating in workplace investigations. Retaliation can include any negative job action, such as demotion, discipline, firing, salary reduction or job or shift assignment.”
Examples of protected activity include:
- Filing a formal written complaint about discrimination (within the company through its management or Human Resources or with any anti-discrimination agency)
- Testifying or assisting in a Human Rights Law proceeding regarding discrimination
- Making a verbal or informal discrimination complaint to management
- Making a complaint that another employee has been subjected to discrimination
- Encouraging another employee to report an occurrence of discrimination
Even when the employee has left the company, if the employer provides an unreasonable negative reference about the former employee, such behavior can fall under retaliation. However, the employee would have to show that the negative reference was based on retaliation.
Potential Penalties for Retaliation
Under New York Law, the New York State Department of Labor can assess potential penalties for retaliation, including:
- Penalties ranging from $1,000 to $20,000
- An order to pay lost compensation to the employee
- An order to pay liquidated damages
If a New York court finds an employer guilty of retaliation it can impose the following:
Reinstatement of the employer to the former position
- Restoration of seniority
- Payment of lost compensation
- Damages of up to $20,000 per employee
- Payment of reasonable attorney’s fees
At Stephen Hans & Associates, we help employers comply with employment laws, avoid retaliation, offer legal advice and represent them in employment issues.