Retaliation is the name for any actions an employer takes against you for asserting your rights under federal and state employment laws. Retaliation is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. It is likely also prohibited by anti-discrimination laws in your state; for more information, see our page of information by state under State Agencies. For information on which employers are covered by these laws, please see our pages for the specific type of discrimination at issue.

Retaliation could be any "adverse action" taken to discourage you from reporting discrimination, asserting your legal rights (such as requesting time off to care for a sick spouse), supporting another person's report of discrimination or participating in anti-discrimination proceedings. In some states, you are also protected from retaliation for refusing to participate in activities you believe are illegal discrimination. Retaliation laws apply even when you are being retaliated against for an action you took with a previous employer or with a union. They also apply when you support another employee's discrimination complaint, even if the discrimination didn't apply to you.

One of the clearest forms of retaliation is firing an employee for reporting discrimination. Examples of other adverse actions include:

  • Demoting you
  • Refusing to promote you even though you're the best-qualified candidate for the job
  • Reducing your hours severely
  • Reassigning you to a less desirable job
  • Negative reviews that are not justified by the facts
  • Creating or knowingly allowing a hostile work environment because of the discrimination complaint

Negative actions against "whistle-blowers" who report illegal conduct by their employers are a type of retaliation. But when the illegal conduct is not discrimination, these employees are covered by a separate set of whistle-blower laws. You can find more information on our page on Whistleblower & Sarbanes Oxley Claims.

In order to prove that you have been retaliated against, you must be able to show that the adverse action against you resulted from your participation in an activity protected by the law. This can be difficult if the employer is savvy enough to make up another reason for the adverse action against you. The best way to know for sure whether you have a case is to speak to an experienced employment discrimination lawyer. However, you may be able to build a strong case if you can show that:

  • The adverse action happened right after the employer found out about your protected activity
  • The reasons your employer gave for the adverse action don't match your past performance reviews
  • Other employees have committed the same infraction you're accused of and were not punished as harshly

If you believe you have been retaliated against on the job, you should speak with an experienced employment discrimination attorney as soon as possible. Retaliation and anti-discrimination claims have extremely tight time limits that, if missed, can eliminate your ability to claim legal relief. The lawyers at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP are committed advocates of employee rights with years of experience handling retaliation and discrimination claims in New York and around the nation. Contact us to tell us about your case and learn more about your options.

Discrimination Frequently Asked Questions

Employment Lawyer Blog - Retaliation