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Retaliation in the Workplace


New York is a state with strict employment laws that prohibit employers from retaliating against employees if they participate in a protected act. Still, many working New Yorkers experience retaliation at the workplace, and 34% of the working professionals fear actions caused by retaliation if they report an unlawful activity going on in the workplace.

Knowing what retaliation in the workplace means is essential, as it will help you protect your employment rights.  Read on to learn more about workplace retaliation, how to find out if you have been retaliated against by the employer, and the necessary steps you should take.

What Do We Mean by Retaliation in the Workplace?

Workplace retaliation is when an employer or any senior in the company with authority takes negative action against an employee who has filed a formal complaint about unethical workplace activities such as harassment or discrimination.

Generally, retaliation in the workplace is only a result of a worker lodging a formal complaint with any outside authority such as the EEOC. The outcomes of retaliation can be severe or subtle depending on several factors.

For example, if an employee fires a worker because they complained about workplace discrimination, it can be counted as direct or severe retaliation. On the other hand, some employers take less impactive actions, such as changing the job shift or department, which is known as subtle retaliation.

Retaliation in any form is unlawful, and the New York employment law prohibits it. However, sometimes it is unclear if an employer’s actions are negative and a result of retaliation.

As per U.S. Supreme Court, it is essential to consider the circumstances of the situation to determine whether it is retaliation or not. As long as an employer’s actions would deter a reasonable employee from making a complaint, it constituted illegal retaliation.

When is Retaliation Prohibited?

The New York state law protects all employees from workplace retaliation, either internally or to an external body such as EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), about harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

The law also offers protection to the employees who cooperate in EEOC investigations, such as becoming a whistleblower. As per a recent Supreme Court case, employees participating as witnesses in an internal investigation are protected, and if such employees face adverse actions from the employer side, it can be considered retaliation and is prohibited.

In a nutshell, if the adverse action is a result of the protected activity done by the employee, the law prohibits it, and the impacted employee can take legal action against the employer.

Do you suspect your termination is a result of retaliation in the workplace? Call 212-967-3000 and speak to the best employment lawyers at Levine and Blit. Get a Free Case Evaluation for your case, and your attorneys will help you get justice.

What Does Retaliation in the Workplace Include?

There are several things included in workplace retaliation, and the New York employment law prohibits all of them. Still, many employers are seen conducting such actions against their employees.

Workplace retaliation includes the following things:


Demotions are a part of running a business, and employers often have to demote employees based on their performance. However, an unexplained demotion because an employee participated in protected activity can be due to retaliation in the workplace.

Salary Reduction or Employment Perks Elimination

This may come accompanied by demotion. The most common thing most employees experience as a result of retaliation is a reduction in salary or elimination of employment benefits such as vacations, appraisals, and more.

Job or Shift Reassignment

Some employers reassign the employees, such as changing their job location and workplace. While reassignment sounds harmless, it can severely impact one’s employment. As per law, it is also included under retaliation in the workplace if you prove that it happened due to your formal complaint against the managers or the employer.

Termination from Job

This can be the ultimate form of retaliation. Since New York is an at-will state, employers can fire their employees. However, if it is due to the employee participating in protected activities, that it is included in workplace retaliation, the law strictly prohibits it.

Post-employment Retaliation

One more inclusion of retaliation in the workplace is post-employment retaliation. Sometimes, it does not end after firing an employee, and the former employer may make it challenging for the impacted employee to find a new role somewhere.


The law prohibits hostility in the workplace. However, it still does happen due to many reasons, one being workplace retaliation. As per EEOC, hostility in the workplace is pervasive, discriminatory in nature, severe, and unwanted. Hostility in the workplace may include:

  • Shaming employees, especially in front of other staff
  • Engaging in verbal, emotional, and physical abuse
  • Intimidating and unfair scrutiny
  • Reprimanding the employee or giving a performance evaluation that’s not justified
  • Defaming the employee, slandering, and spreading false rumors
  • Making the employee’s work more difficult

Whether you uncover potentially discriminatory wages, alleged harassment, refusing sexual advances, mistreatment regarding race-based discrimination, or wrongful termination, the law protects you completely. You have the right to engage in legally protected activity without fearing any consequences whatsoever.

Signs that Your Employer has Retaliated Against You

The above-mentioned things are included in retaliation in the workplace. However, these are not always a result of retaliation and can sometimes be regular business operations. Here are some signs to determine that the adverse actions of your employer are due to retaliation.


If you file a formal complaint against your manager or employer and notice shortly afterward that the bosses are treating you differently, you can suspect workplace retaliation. Generally, the closer in the time that these events occur, the stronger the correlation is, and the more robust your retaliation case becomes.


Whenever an employer takes negative action against an employee, it’s natural for the worker to ask for an explanation. If the explanation your managers gives falls apart easily or seems unlikely, they may be doing it to cover the retaliatory behavior.

For example, if you receive contradictory explanations from different managers, and the reasons keep on changing, it could be a sign of retaliation. Also, if possible, get the explanation in writing each time the employer gives you an inconsistent explanation.

If they refuse to put it in writing, keep their statements in notes. You can use these written notes to prove your retaliation claims of workplace retaliation.

Sudden Change

Essentially, if your employer’s treatment and attitude towards you change suddenly and without a cause, it can be proof that you are experiencing retaliation in the workplace. It is particularly true when other employees are still receiving the same treatment and are getting the employment benefits you aren’t.

Are you experiencing these signs? It could be workplace retaliation. Seek help from professional employment lawyers at Levine and Blit, and we will help you get the employee benefits you deserve.

Contact us for a Free Case Evaluation, and let the best lawyers help you with your case.

Different Types of Workplace Retaliation Laws

Every employee needs to know about the laws that protect their rights. Moreover, it will help you strengthen your case, and you can get all benefits you deserve as an employee. It is best to understand the laws that follow:

  • National Labor Relations Act
  • Equal Pay Act
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Family Medical and Leave Act
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Sometimes retaliation can also be a result of whistleblowing, and the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) oversees it. These include:

  • Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 f
  • Food Safety Modernization Act
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
  • Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Sarbanes Oxley Act

How Can You Prove Retaliation in the Workplace?

There is a thin line between retaliation and general behavior. Sometimes, cutting the employment benefits could be a need of the company due to a financial crunch, and this does not count as workplace retaliation. Due to such reasons, proving retaliation in the workplace becomes challenging.

To prove the adverse employment actions resulting from retaliation, an employee has to prove three things.

You Engaged in a Protected Activity

The first thing the employee needs to prove is that they engaged in an activity protected by the New York Employment Law. For example: if you have lodged a formal complaint against the employer with EEOC because of harassment or discrimination in the workplace, it counts as a protected activity.

Similarly, there are multiple activities that employees can do while getting protection for their rights from the state as well as federal law.

These protected activities include:

  • Speaking out against employment discrimination, sexual harassment, and national origin discrimination
  • Making a worker’s compensation claim
  • Questioning the employer’s immigration policies

You Suffered Negative Consequences in the Workplace

Next, you need to prove that you have suffered from any kind of negative consequences at the workplace. These consequences could be anything, including:

  • Demotion or termination
  • Unjustified or unexplained negative performance evaluations
  • Transfer to a less desirable position
  • Denial of pay increase or promotion
  • Alterations in work conditions such as schedule, work hours, or location

The Protected Activity caused the Negative Consequences

You need to establish a correlation between the negative consequences and the protected activity. For example: if you received a termination or demotion letter after a few days or months of complaining against the employer, this could help establish a correlation.

This phase is the most important part of proving your workplace retaliation. Any type of written document, such as a termination letter, can serve as proof of retaliation in the workplace.

How Can a Workplace Retaliation Attorney Help?

Workplace Retaliation

In order to prove your workplace retaliation claim, you need an experienced retaliation to represent your case. An employment lawyer will help you in the following ways:

Determining Whether You are a Victim of Workplace Retaliation

Sometimes employees think the employer is retaliating against them, but that may not always be the case. A lawyer will look at the situation to help you determine whether you are a victim of retaliation or not.

Filing a Complaint

If circumstances denote that you have experienced workplace retaliation, the attorney will help you file a complaint. Usually, these cases come under EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Council), and you need to file a complaint with it. The attorneys will assist you by preparing all the paperwork and fulfilling other requirements.

Organizing the Evidence

Evidence plays a crucial role in proving your claims of workplace retaliation. Therefore, it should be properly organized for the jury to review. Employment attorneys at Levine and Blit are masters at organizing the evidence to strengthen your claim.

Negotiating with the Employer

Sometimes you can get rid of the adverse effects by negotiating with the employer, and an employment attorney will help you with the same. The lawyers will negotiate with the employer’s attorneys to claim your employment benefits and other things you deserve as an employee.

Representing You in the Court

The attorneys will take it to court if things don’t settle during the negotiation and will represent you to help you get justice.

Contact Levine and Blit to Put an End to Workplace Retaliation

Workplace retaliation can affect you mentally and financially, and no employee deserves it. If you suspect you are a retaliation victim, talk to your human resources representative or a supervisor about the issue.

A number of state and federal anti-discrimination laws require employees to submit complaints to their human resources department before filing charges. Your retaliation claim can be undermined if you do not follow this step.

At Levine and Blit, we understand how difficult it is to face workplace discrimination, especially when there is a history of retaliation. Our team of professional retaliation lawyers will tell you how strong your case is and how to strengthen it to increase the likelihood of receiving fair compensation. We offer Free Case Evaluation on your workplace retaliation case.

Call us at 212-967-3000 for a free case evaluation, and let the most experienced New York employment attorneys handle your case.

Contact Levine & Blit, PLLC

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