Retaliation occurs when you get punished by your employer because you exercised your legal rights or because you engaged in a lawful activity. Federal, New York State, and New York City law make it illegal to retaliate against employees for:

  • Reporting or filing a discrimination claim or a sexual harassment claim;
  • Participating in an investigation or a lawsuit about a claim (even if it is decided that your employer did not do anything wrong); or
  • Reporting that your employer is doing something illegal.

Retaliation can occur in any aspect of employment, including:

  • Hiring, firing and layoffs;
  • Pay and fringe benefits;
  • Job assignments, promotions and training; or
  • Any other term or condition of employment.

Retaliation can be obvious, but it can also be so unclear that you do not notice it until long after it occurred. If you have experienced any of the following, you may be a victim of retaliation:

  • You report your employer to officials for unlawfully not paying overtime; soon after, you are fired.
  • You cooperate in an investigation into whether your employer unlawfully failed to pay minimum wage and overtime and notice that, little by little, you are assigned fewer hours, your job duties are reduced, and you are not offered any promotions.
  • You have always received great job performance reviews. Then you reported to your human resources department that a co-worker (a rising star at that!) was sexually harassing the women he worked with. After the co-worker was fired, your supervisor tells you that you are being demoted for not being a “team player.”
  • You lawfully take time off to care for a sick relative; when you return to work, you are the only employee who does not receive a raise for the next year.
  • You testify in a race discrimination lawsuit against your employer. Then you are transferred to the night shift without notice or explanation.

Legal Editor: Joseph F. Tremiti, February 2015 (updated May 2017)

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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