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3 employee actions that may trigger workplace retaliation

On Behalf of | Jul 25, 2023 | Employment Law

Federal laws and New York state statutes help protect the rights of workers. From safety statutes to laws against discrimination, there are many rules that impose obligations on employers for the benefit of their workers.

Yet, despite the theoretical protection for employees asserting their rights on the job, workplace retaliation is a common concern. The law prohibits employers from punishing workers for knowing and using their rights. However, retaliation is the driving concern behind a large number of employment lawsuits every year. The following worker activities have a known correlation with an increased risk of suffering unlawful – and potentially actionable – employer retaliation.

Organizing with other employees

Holding meetings to start a union, talking with other workers about how much they make or collectively documenting hostile and unsafe workplace conditions are all actions that theoretically have protection under federal and state employment laws. Still, when employers discover that workers want to organize, they often choose to take potentially illegal punitive action.

Reporting misconduct

Perhaps an employee has endured unwanted advances from their supervisor or has noticed that certain members of their team make racially insensitive jokes at the expense of a co-worker. Maybe there have been safety violations on a fabrication line. Whatever the reason, when someone feels compelled to speak up about workplace safety issues, discrimination or harassment, they should not have to worry about their employer punishing them. Retaliation after reporting misconduct often looks like diminished job opportunities or a termination that follows filing a formal complaint internally.

Seeking accommodations

Many employers have enough workers to make accommodating those with disabling medical conditions a requirement. Sometimes, employers need to provide assistive technology or help transition someone to a job that won’t exacerbate the medical condition. Other times, they may need to cooperate with a worker’s request for an unpaid leave of absence. Unfortunately, some companies would rather terminate, demote or transfer workers that require accommodations instead of trying to support them and keeping them at the company. Acts of retaliation can range from write-ups and punitive disciplinary attempts to termination.

Workers who understand when employers are likely to retaliate can more easily make use of the laws in place to protect them from such company misconduct. Fighting back against employer retaliation can help to protect individual workers and anyone else at the company who might engage in protected activities in the future.