Retaliation Initiative Announced by Federal Agencies

On November 17, 2021, the federal government announced a renewed focus on combating workplace retaliation. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are beginning an initiative designed to educate and protect workers against employer retaliation. 

While these organizations have always had anti-retaliation as a key part of their missions, top government leaders noted that there has been a statistical increase in the amount of retaliatory behavior from employers in recent years. In response, the DOL, NLRB, and EEOC are refocusing their efforts to cooperate effectively and efficiently on enforcing laws protecting employees from workplace retaliation.

In North Carolina, and South Carolina, The Noble Law also works to level the playing field in employment when it comes to employer retaliation. It is critical that employees understand what the law defines as legally protected activity and workplace retaliation. For example, in New York, the New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law protects individuals who file a complaint from retaliation as well as witnesses that come forward to support claims of discrimination.

All employees have the right to engage in legally protected activities in the workplace. Complaints of harassment, discrimination, unsafe working conditions, and unfair wages are all protected activities. Employees are also protected from retaliation for filing a worker’s compensation claim or for cooperating with a government agency’s investigation (like OSHA). In concert with this principle, the state of New York recently passed legislation that significantly expanded “whistleblower” protections for employees who report illegal activity by the organizations who employ them. For more context on whistleblowers, check out our helpful explainer video on the topic here.

While it is legal, asserting your rights in this way may lead to an employer retaliating against you. Retaliation can take the form of termination or wrongful discharge, demotion, or some other disciplinary measure that substantially affects your employment. While hostile behavior or bullying by an employer may constitute harassment or discrimination, it is only defined as retaliation when it is related to an employee exercising a legally protected activity. 

Importantly, the law prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee even if the employee’s complaint is later found to be invalid. If the employee filed the complaint with the sincere belief that they were doing the right things, the activity is legally protected! If an employer starts to treat an employee differently right after they file a complaint, an employee may have cause to suspect retaliation. Read more about workplace retaliation and the potential recourse available to employees on our subject matter page here. 

Contact our Workplace Retaliation Lawyers Today

At The Noble Law, our success is measured by delivering positive impacts for our clients and serving as a catalyst for changes in employment law and society. We believe that it is essential for employees to feel safe and confident in speaking up to defend their rights and the rights of other employees. As the Solicitor of Labor, Seema Nanda said, “Enforcement of labor laws only works when workers who speak out for themselves and their fellow workers do not fear or suffer from retaliation.” We continue to monitor further developments that come from this increased focus on retaliation. If you or a coworker are dealing with workplace retaliation or other employment law matters, reach out to us by calling (919) 917-9421 or by visiting our consultations page.

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