Did your employer consider you a solid employee but then everything changed after you opposed the unlawful discrimination or harassment to which you or a co-worker were being subjected? If so, your employer may have unlawfully retaliated against you. While not every type of retaliation is unlawful, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who oppose unlawful discrimination or harassment, file a discrimination or harassment complaint, testify in a legal proceeding about discrimination or harassment, assist any other employee in a legal proceeding involving discrimination or harassment, or help or encourage other employees to pursue rights or protections under the Law Against Discrimination. N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(d). Doing any one of those things is generally referred to as engaging in protected conduct under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A.10:5-1, as long as the employee is taking those actions because of discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender or sex, age, disability, color or race, pregnancy or breastfeeding, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, national origin or ancestry, marital status, domestic partnership status, civil union status, service in the armed forces, or any other protected characteristics. The New Jersey unlawful retaliation attorneys at Lenzo & Reis want you to know that it does not matter whether you are opposing discrimination or harassment directed at either you or someone else at work. If you are being retaliated against for opposing either type of such discrimination or harassment or participating in any investigation or proceeding of such conduct, your employer is unlawfully retaliating against you and violating the Law Against Discrimination.
The anti-retaliation provisions of various federal laws also make such retaliation unlawful. For example, Section 2000e-3a of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees who oppose discrimination or harassment on the basis of national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual identity or sexual orientation or participate in a proceeding or investigation of such matters. Similarly, Section 623(d) of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 makes clear that retaliation against employees opposing and/or participating in investigations or proceedings concerning age discrimination is unlawful. Section 12203 of the ADA also makes unlawful retaliation against employees who oppose or participate in proceedings or investigations concerning discrimination against disabled workers. While there are different laws that protect against unlawful employment retaliation, our state law largely mirrors federal law when it comes to proving unlawful retaliation for objecting to, assisting, filing suit or testifying about discrimination and/or harassment.What Is Unlawful Retaliation?
Unlawful retaliation is when an employer takes an adverse action against an employee or begins to treat an employee poorly because that employee complained about, opposed or participated in an investigation of or proceeding concerning workplace discrimination or harassment. Put more simply, unlawful retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee who raises concerns about or provides information confirming the existence of unlawful discrimination or harassment. If we had to use one word to describe retaliation, that word would be revenge. Retaliation is an employer’s revenge against employees who complain about or confirm the existence of unlawful discrimination or harassment.
In 2010, the Supreme Court of New Jersey, in Roa v. Roa, made clear that post-employment retaliation is also unlawful. That means that employers who retaliate against former employees also violate the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The Supreme Court of the United States reached a similar conclusion fourteen years earlier, at least as far as Title VII claims are concerned, in Robinson v. Shell Oil Co.What Does Unlawful Retaliation Look Like?
The New Jersey employment retaliation lawyers at Lenzo & Reis understand that illegal retaliation can take many different forms and look differently from workplace to workplace or even worker to worker. The most obvious examples are when an employee who generally received good reviews and raises suddenly gets criticized for performance, put on a performance improvement plan, is demoted or fired for performance reasons, is laid off, and/or receives lousy raises because he or she either opposed discrimination or harassment or participated in an investigation or proceeding involving workplace discrimination or harassment. Other examples are when employers retaliate against employees by changing their schedules, work assignments, work locations, or even work duties because the workers opposed unlawful discrimination or harassment. Yet another example of unlawful retaliation is when employers treat employees who complain about or confirm the existence of discrimination and/or harassment more harshly than they treat other employees. So, for example, if an employer writes up employees who complained about unlawful discrimination for being five minutes late to work but does not write up other employees for being five minutes late, that is an example of retaliation.
Unlawful retaliation does not, however, have to involve an actual employment action or decision. In fact, sometimes, unlawful retaliation can be more subtle. Retaliation occasionally simply takes the form of treating complaining employees differently, meaning more harshly, than either they were treated before complaining or than non-complaining employees are treated. In 2002, the New Jersey Supreme Court, in Shepherd v. Hunterdon Developmental Center, made clear that various acts of retaliation, when viewed cumulatively, may be sufficient to establish a hostile work environment claim. As such, both the Supreme Court in Shepherd and the Appellate Division, three years later in Nardello v. Twp of Voorhees, concluded that conduct falling short of discharge, suspension, or demotion may be sufficiently severe to constitute adverse employment actions.How Can a New Jersey Employment Attorney Help With Unlawful Retaliation?
While it may seem difficult to prove unlawful retaliation, Lenzo & Reis’ New Jersey employment retaliation lawyers know exactly what evidence to look for, where to look for that evidence, what questions to ask, and how to piece everything together to win a New Jersey retaliation case. The attorneys at Lenzo & Reis, LLC, who only represent employees when it comes to unlawful retaliation cases, have successfully handled hundreds of retaliation cases. We have gotten our clients outstanding results when both informally negotiating unlawful retaliation claims before having to file suit and litigating unlawful retaliation cases once suits have been filed. In fact, one of our clients, who never lost a day of work, was awarded over $1.5 million dollars in a New Jersey unlawful retaliation case that was tried by the illegal retaliation attorneys, Christopher Lenzo and Claudia Reis.
If you need help with unlawful employment retaliation, call Chris and Claudia, New Jersey’s employment retaliation attorneys, at (973) 845-9922 or complete our online form.