Getting and keeping a good job is not always easy. That is why employees are often reluctant to come forward with information about their employers’ unlawful business practices.
Fearing retaliation for reporting illegal behavior is understandable. As employment law attorneys, clients often ask us if reporting illegal behavior or bringing a lawsuit against their employers will result in them losing their jobs. Others are concerned that they will be demoted, shifted to a lower-level position, or have some other action taken against them to make their work lives difficult.
You have legal protections against retaliation
Fortunately, there are a number of laws that prevent employers from retaliating against employees who come forward with information about unlawful behavior in the workplace. Federal laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), as well as state and local laws such as the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”), New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) and New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”), protect employees who report information about:
- Failure to pay minimum wages
- Failure to pay employees for all hours worked
- Failure to pay overtime wages
- Other behavior prohibited under state, federal and local law
Federal and state law are clear
These federal and state laws don’t just protect employees who file lawsuits or formal claims with administrative agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or Department of Labor. They also prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who make internal complaints to their employers, including to their supervisors or Human Resources departments.
Even employees who don’t file their own complaints are protected if they offer information or testify in proceedings or investigations based on complaints filed by their coworkers.
An act of courage can benefit all workers
While it takes courage for employees to report employment practices that violate the law, New York takes the protection of those employees seriously. If employers were allowed to retaliate against employees who make such reports, the environments in many workplaces would suffer greatly.
If you have questions about your particular situation, consult with an experienced employment law attorney to determine your options and the steps you can take to protect yourself moving forward.