An experienced retaliation lawyer can help win your case and protect your rights.
Do you need a retaliation lawyer because you have been punished for reporting or complaining about illegal discrimination at work? Has your employer prevented you from exercising your rights under state and federal laws? If this sounds familiar, Kitay Law Offices can help!
Many employees who have witnessed or suffered illegal retaliation in the workplace don’t report. Typically, employees are afraid of harassment, demotion, or termination. For the same reason, many employees choose not to exercise their workplace rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
To help with this, most employment laws prohibit retaliation in the workplace. Contact an experienced lawyer at Kitay Law Offices! You can reach us both online and at 888-KITAYLAW to schedule your free consultation.
What is the definition of retaliation in the workplace?
Illegal retaliation in the workplace is when you are punished for engaging in legally protected activity. Examples of legally protected activity may include:
- Reporting illegal discrimination – This may include race, sex, age, disability, or other types of illegal discrimination.
- Reporting harassment – Here, you may have reported sexual, racial, or other types of illegal harassment to your employer or a government agency.
- Preventing discrimination – This can happen when refusing to follow orders from your supervisor that would result in discrimination.
- Resisting sexual advances – Importantly, this can also apply if you intervene to protect others from unwelcome sexual advances.
- Cooperating with authorities – In this scenario, you may have been disciplined for cooperating with a government agency that is investigating complaints of discrimination or harassment.
- Requesting an accommodation – Here, you may have been punished for requesting an accommodation for a disability or religious practice.
- Requesting leave – For example, you may have been disciplined for requesting leave under FMLA.
If any of this is familiar to you, speak with an experienced workplace retaliation lawyer immediately!
What are some examples of retaliation at work?
Retaliation at work is any conduct that would deter a reasonable person from engaging in that protected activity. In other words, this is conduct that would likely prevent you from reporting illegal activity if you know that you would suffer the related punishment.
Strangely, the law also requires that the retaliation must be “materially adverse.” While this is a fancy legal term that comes loaded with meaning, it can include:
- reprimanding or disciplining you
- demoting or firing you
- transferring you to a less desirable or prestigious position
- sending you to a less desirable location
- scrutinizing your work more harshly
- treating your close friends or family members negatively
- creating a hostile work environment
- making it more difficult for you to perform your job
To make matters more complicated, whether your employer’s actions are “materially adverse” depends on the specific facts of your case. No two cases are the same. Therefore, speak with an experienced lawyer at Kitay Law Offices today! Contact us online or at 888-KITAYLAW to schedule your free consultation.
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What is the law of retaliation?
Several laws prohibit retaliation in the workplace. These can include the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII”), the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”).
Depending on the law that has been violated, different agencies are in charge of enforcement. For example, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) enforces the retaliation provisions of Title VII, the ADA, and the ADEA. Further, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) enforces the PHRA. Finally, some cities and towns, like Philadelphia and Allentown, have their own laws prohibiting retaliation at work.
All of these laws generally prohibit the same kind of retaliatory conduct in the workplace. The biggest difference between the laws is to which employers they apply. For example:
- Title VII and the ADA apply only to Pennsylvania employers with at least 15 employees.
- The ADEA applies only to Pennsylvania employers with at least 20 employees.
- The FMLA applies only to Pennsylvania employers with at least 50 employees.
- The PHRA applies only to Pennsylvania employers with at least 4 employees.
- Local laws usually apply to employers with any number of employees within the town or city.
Chances are, at least one of these laws covers your employer. As a result, an experienced workplace retaliation lawyer will be able to determine which laws apply to your case.
How to prove retaliation in the workplace
To prove retaliation in the workplace, you must show:
- You engaged in activity protected by Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, the FMLA, or the PHRA;
- Your employer took negative action against you, such as termination, demotion, harassment, etc.; and
- That negative action was due to you engaging in protected activity.
Importantly, make note of that last requirement. This is what we call “causation.” An experienced retaliation lawyer can explain whether causation exists in your case. However, here are some important ways that you can prove causation:
To prove causation with circumstantial evidence, you must typically show that your employer’s negative action happened shortly after you engaged in protected activity. Also, the period of time between your protected activity and your employer’s negative action must generally be less than 6 months.
Comparator evidence is, essentially, a type of circumstantial evidence. Here is a good way to think about comparator evidence:
Has your employer punished you for something you did but that you have seen others do before? Maybe you know several co-workers who did the same thing but were not disciplined at all? If this applies to you, your employer likely gave you some other reason to try and justify their punishment that doesn’t really make sense. Comparing the ways in which you were disciplined to coworkers who did the same thing can help show that your employer’s actions were illegal.
Direct evidence is the best kind of evidence you can hope for. Unfortunately, it is also the most rare. To show causation by direct evidence, a verbal statement or document specifically stating that you are being punished for the protected activity is helpful.
If you feel like you have been the victim of retaliation in the workplace, ask an experienced lawyer at Kitay Law Offices to review your evidence. Contact us at 888-KITAYLAW or online for a free consultation.
Who is protected from retaliation in the workplace?
The protections against retaliation apply to all current or prospective employees of any employer, employment agency, or labor organization. This is true when the employer is covered by Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, or the PHRA. Additionally, the PHRA also prohibits retaliation against independent contractors. The FMLA anti-retaliation provisions, however, apply only to those current employees who are eligible for FMLA leave. Perhaps most importantly, these protections apply regardless of an applicant or employee’s citizenship or work authorization status.
I complained about illegal conduct someone else is experiencing. Am I protected from retaliation?
Yes, but only under Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, and the PHRA. It is illegal to take negative action against employees because they have complained about discrimination that affects other people. It does not matter whether the you are a witness to discrimination or complaining of conduct that you personally experienced.
Can my employer retaliate by taking a negative action against my family or a friend?
No, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against a family member or friend. If this happens, both you and your family member or friend may have a legal action against your employer.
I’m not sure if my employer’s actions are bad enough to be called retaliation. Am I still protected?
If your employer has been giving you a hard time but you are not sure if you have been the victim of retaliation, you may still be protected under the ADA. Importantly, the ADA also protects you from “interference.” Interference is a broader term than retaliation.
For example, the ADA makes it illegal for your employer to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or otherwise interfere with your rights under the ADA. Here are some situations where interference may occur:
- Coercing someone to forego an accommodation to which they are legally entitled
- Intimidating someone to prevent them from asking for an accommodation
- Threatening with termination or negative action if an employee does not submit to a medical examination that is prohibited by the ADA
- Creating a policy that attempts to limit ADA rights
- Interfering with a former employee’s rights to file a lawsuit for an ADA violation
- Taking negative action against an employee because that employee assisted a coworker in requesting a reasonable accommodation
Importantly, an experienced workplace retaliation lawyer can help determine whether you have been the victim of interference under the ADA. Each case is very different and depends on the specific facts of your situation.
Do any other laws prevent interference?
Yes, the FMLA protects you from interference. Interference under the FMLA occurs when your employer prevents you from exercising your right to medical leave under the FMLA. Generally, the FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave to care for serious medical conditions. To be eligible for this leave, you must have worked 1,250 hours for your employer over the previous 12 months. Interference occurs when you meet this criteria and your employer wrongly denies your request for leave.
How to file a retaliation lawsuit
Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, and the PHRA all require retaliation victims to file their claims with the EEOC or the PHRC before going to court. This is called “exhausting administrative remedies.” Under the FMLA, however, you do not need to exhaust any administrative remedies and may directly file a lawsuit in court.
If you file a retaliation claim with the EEOC in Pennsylvania, it is also automatically filed with the PHRC. This is also the case if you file first with the PHRC. Importantly, you are not required to have an attorney in order to file a complaint. However, hiring an experienced retaliation lawyer is crucial to your success. Even at this early stage, you must navigate many complicated procedures and rules. Importantly, failure to do this appropriately can harm your case.
What is the deadline to file a complaint for retaliation in the workplace with the EEOC or PHRC?
To protect your retaliation claims under Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, and the PHRA, you must file a complaint with the EEOC or the PHRC within 180 days of your employer’s negative action. If you file your retaliation claim with the EEOC, it will automatically be filed with the PHRC. The same is true if you file first with the PHRC.
If you miss the 180-day deadline, you can still protect your federal retaliation claim under Title VII, the ADA, or the ADEA. To do so, you must file your complaint with the EEOC within 300 days of your employer’s negative action. In this circumstance, however, you will lose your PHRA claim.
To protect your retaliation or interference claim under the FMLA, you do not need to file a claim with the EEOC or PHRC. You may file a lawsuit directly in court. Generally, you must file your lawsuit within 2 years of the retaliation or interference. However, the deadline is extended to 3 years if the retaliation or interference was willful.
If you do not file your complaint by these deadlines, you may lose your claims forever. For this reason, it is important to have an attorney handle the process for you. Speak with an experienced lawyer at Kitay Law Offices to ensure you meet all deadlines and that your complaint is filed properly. Contact us online or at 888-KITAYLAW to schedule your free consultation today!
How long do I have to wait to file a retaliation lawsuit against my employer?
Under Title VII and the ADA, you must give the EEOC at least 180 days to investigate your retaliation or interference complaint. If the EEOC has not completed its investigation within that time, you may request a “Notice of Right to Sue.” This letter from the EEOC gives you the right to file a retaliation or interference lawsuit against your employer in court. Once you receive this letter, you must file your lawsuit within 90 days. For additional information, check out the EEOC’s public portal. There, you can find lots of information about filing a complaint for retaliation in the workplace.
Under the PHRA, you must give the PHRC at least 1 year to investigate your complaint for retaliation or interference. If the PHRC has not resolved your case within 1 year, you have the right to file your PHRA retaliation claim in court. Unlike with the EEOC, you do not need to receive a Notice of Right to Sue before going to court. For additional information, check out the PHRC’s helpful guide for filing a retaliation or interference complaint.
If you file an ADEA retaliation complaint, however, you only need to wait 60 days after filing your complaint with the EEOC before you can file your lawsuit in court. In fact, you do not even need to wait to receive a “Notice of Right to Sue” from the EEOC. As soon as the 60-day period expires, you can file your lawsuit directly in court.
As you can see, filing a retaliation or interference complaint with the EEOC or PHRC can be a confusing process. Make sure you have the strongest case possible and that you comply with all of the rules. Therefore, speak with an experienced lawyer at Kitay Law Offices today!
What kind of damages can my workplace retaliation lawyer get for me?
Your experienced workplace retaliation lawyer will seek to recover the maximum compensation for your case. We call this compensation “damages.” Importantly, your lawyer will work to obtain three different types of damages for your retaliation in the workplace:
- Punitive Damages: If your employer acted intentionally, these damages are meant to punish.
- Compensatory Damages: In most cases, this includes compensation for pain, inconvenience, and emotional distress.
- Economic Damages: This can include compensation for past and future wage loss, among other things.
For a good overview of some of the most important aspects of determining the value of your case, check out our blog!
Are there limits on the damages I can receive?
Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, the FMLA, and the PHRA all place limits on the kinds and amounts of damages you can recover if you are retaliated against at work. There is no cap on economic damages with each of these laws. However, under Title VII and the ADA, the combined amount of punitive and compensatory damages you can recover is limited based on the size of your employer:
- 15-100 employees: $50,000 maximum
- 101-200 employees: $100,000 maximum
- 201-500 employees: $200,000 maximum
- More than 500 employees: $300,000 maximum
Under the ADEA and the FMLA, you cannot recover compensatory damages. You can, however, recover liquidated damages that are equal to your economic damages award, but only if your employer’s illegal conduct was intentional. For example, if you win your lawsuit and your economic damages are $10,000.00, you can be awarded an additional $10,000.00 in liquidated damages if you can prove that your employer intentionally violated these laws.
Like Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, and the FMLA, the PHRA does not limit economic damages. Unlike these federal laws, however, the PHRA does not limit your compensatory damages. Nor does it allow punitive or liquidated damages. It can be confusing to determine the types and amounts of damages you can recover. As a result, it is important to have an experienced retaliation lawyer on your side.
How long will it take to resolve my case for retaliation at work?
Generally, workplace retaliation and interference cases resolve within 2 years. Some cases may resolve in as little as a few months while others may take several years. Your specific case, however, may take more or less time. This will depend on several factors, including:
- The relative complexity of your case
- Whether your employer has insurance to cover your retaliation or interference claim
- The number of people or entities you sue
- How much your damages amount to
- The number of witnesses involved
- Whether your employer is willing to settle your case
Handling your retaliation case on your own can make it take much longer to resolve. As a result, you may endure a lot of unnecessary stress, wasted time, and uncertainty. Instead, get an experienced lawyer on your side. Contact Kitay Law Offices online or at 888-KITAYLAW for a free consultation today!
For additional information regarding your rights in the workplace, especially considering the effects of COVID-19, check out our blog article.
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