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New York Court Discusses Employment Discrimination Retaliation Claims

February 21, 2021

Many people who are subjected to discrimination in the workplace are either terminated or quit because they can no longer tolerate being treated unjustly. However, some people choose to report discriminatory practices to human resources or other supervisory individuals and remain in their place of employment. It is not uncommon for people who report discrimination to face additional adverse consequences from vengeful employers. Retaliation is unlawful, however, and employers who try to punish employees for reporting discrimination may be liable for additional damages, as discussed in a recent New York opinion. If your employer took adverse actions against you after you reported discrimination, it is prudent to speak to a trusted New York employment discrimination lawyer about your rights.

The Plaintiff’s Treatment

Allegedly, the plaintiff worked as a professor for the defendant college for approximately twenty years. In the last three years of her employment, she faced discrimination based on her age, race, and gender from students and co-workers. She filed a formal complaint in March 2018, arguing the defendant engaged in discriminatory behavior and created a hostile work environment. Two months later, she was denied re-appointment to her position.

Reportedly, the plaintiff then filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the defendant, alleging in part that she was denied re-appointment in retaliation for her March 2018 complaint, in violation of federal law. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety.

Retaliation Claims Under New York Law

Under the applicable federal laws, a plaintiff alleging retaliation in the context of employment discrimination must prove four elements: partaking in a protected activity; the employer’s awareness of the activity; an adverse employment action suffered by the employee; and a causal link between the protected action and the adverse employment action.

An employee’s complaint may constitute participation in a protected activity as long as the employee harbors a reasonable, good faith belief that the employer’s underlying actions violated the law. Specifically, the employee must think that the employer’s behavior constitutes an unlawful employment practice in violation of Title VII.

In the subject case, the court noted that the plaintiff pointed to her March complaint and other informal complaints as the reason for the defendant’s retaliation. The court explained, though, that the employee’s complaint merely alleged that she was discriminated against for partaking in a union, not because of her membership in a protected class. Thus, the court found that there was no basis for the conclusion that the plaintiff held a reasonable belief that the defendant was violating Title VII at the time she made the March 2018 complaint. As such, her retaliation claim was dismissed.

Confer With a Capable Employment Attorney in New York

If you faced retaliation from your employer after you reported discrimination, you may be owed compensation, and you should speak to an attorney. The capable employment attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP take pride in helping people who experienced retaliation or other forms of employment discrimination in the pursuit of damages, and if you hire us, we will advocate aggressively on your behalf. We can be contacted to set up a conference via our form online or at our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 or at our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170.

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