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You Did The Right Thing. Now Let Us Protect You From Workplace Retaliation.

Many workers who have witnessed or suffered workplace discrimination, or who have pursued their rights under the ADA or the FMLA, don’t report it to anyone because they are scared of getting harassed, demoted, or fired by their employers. To protect employees who assert their legal rights or complain about illegal discrimination, most employment laws prohibit employer interference and retaliation. If you believe you are being punished by your employer for reporting or complaining about illegal discrimination, or for trying to exercise your rights under the law, CONTACT MY FIRM, Mansour Law, LLC, online or call 610-936-6863 for a FREE CONSULTATION. My team is ready to help!

What Is Illegal Retaliation At Work?

Simply stated, illegal retaliation at work occurs when an employer wrongfully punishes you for a legally protected activity. This can include:

  • Reporting illegal discrimination in the workplace to your employer or a government agency (including sex, age, race, disability and other forms of discrimination)
  • Reporting illegal harassment based on sex, race or another protected class
  • Refusing discriminatory orders from your employer
  • Intervening to protect coworkers from sexual harassment or resisting them yourself
  • Working with a government agency in their investigation of discrimination or harassment in your workplace
  • Requesting reasonable accommodation for your disability or religion
  • Requesting FMLA leave

If your employer punishes you for engaging in any of the above activities, that is likely illegal retaliation. Retaliatory conduct by your employer is any conduct that would deter a reasonable person from engaging in a protected activity. Importantly, the retaliatory conduct must be “materially adverse.” Examples of retaliatory conduct include:

  • Implementing disciplinary action
  • Demotion or wrongful termination
  • Transferring you to a worse position or location
  • Engaging in verbal or physical abuse
  • Increased job scrutiny
  • Treating close friends or family members negatively (for example, by canceling a contract with your friend or family member)
  • Making your work environment hostile
  • Making your job performance more difficult

Whether an action is materially adverse varies on the facts and circumstances of the particular case. If you believe you’ve suffered illegal retaliation at work, you should immediately contact an experienced Pennsylvania workplace retaliation lawyer

What Laws Prohibit Workplace Retaliation?

Retaliation is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”). This means that if you exercise your rights under any of these laws, or if you complain about your employer’s violation of these laws, you are protected from retaliation.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) enforces provisions in Title VII, the ADA and the ADEA. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) enforces the PHRA. Some cities and towns in Pennsylvania have their own laws that may apply to your case.

Each of the above laws prohibit the same sort of conduct at work. However, they apply to different kinds of employers:

  • Pennsylvania employers with 15 or more employees for Title VII
  • Pennsylvania employers with 20 or more employees for the the ADEA
  • Pennsylvania employers with 50 or more employees for the FMLA
  • Pennsylvania employers with 4 or more employees for the PHRA
  • Any employer that fall under their local city regulations

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 employers with at least 20 employees
  • The FMLA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees
  • The PHRA applies only to employers with at least 4 employees.
  • Local laws usually apply to employers with any number of employees within the town or city.

Chances are, your employer is covered by one of these laws. A workplace retaliation attorney can help you navigate these laws and ensure you are in compliance.

How Do You Prove Illegal Workplace Retaliation?

To prove illegal retaliation, you must show that:

  • Your activity was protected by Title VII, PHRA, the ADA, the FMLA and the ADEA
  • Your employer took negative action against you (e.g., termination, harassment or demotion).
  • Your employer’s action was caused by your protected activity (also called “causation”).

There are generally two ways to prove causation. First, and most commonly, you can prove causation by circumstantial evidence. Usually, this requires you to show that your employer’s negative action happened soon after your actions occurred. But this evidence will only be helpful if nothing else happened in between to warrant your employer’s negative action. Also, you must typically wait until six months after the negative action occurred.

Another type of circumstantial evidence is comparator evidence. Many times, your employer will give you a false reason for its negative action. Therefore, if your employer failed to take negative action against other employees for the same reason it gave you, this could be powerful circumstantial evidence. This evidence can prove that the reason the employer gave you for the negative action wasn’t the real reason. Second, you can prove causation by direct evidence. This kind of evidence is less common and usually involves some statement by your employer that you’re being punished for your protected activity.

Causation is usually the hardest thing to prove in an employment retaliation case. An experienced workplace retaliation lawyer will be able to see whether you have the right evidence to bring a workplace retaliation claim against your employer.

Who Is Protected From Workplace Retaliation?

If you work for an employer or agency that is covered by the ADA, PHRA, ADEA or Title VII, you are protected against retaliation in the workplace, regardless of citizen or work authorization status. The PHRA also covers those who work as independent contractors. The FMLA provisions only apply to those who are eligible for leave, however.

Are You Protected From Retaliation For Reporting Illegal Conduct Against Someone Else?

All employees whose employers fall under the ADA, the PHRA, the ADEA or Title VII are protected against illegal retaliation in the workplace. Under every law listed above, negative action against a worker who has filed a compliant about discrimination or harassment is prohibited – whether they are the subject of that action or they have witnessed it occur against a coworker.

Is It Illegal For An Employer To Retaliate Against You By Taking Action Against A Family Member Or Friend?

Yes. If your employer takes an action against a family member or close friend in order to retaliate against you, both you and the family member or friend have a legal claim against your employer.

What Is ‘Interference’ With Disability Rights Under The ADA?

The ADA prohibits not only retaliation, but also “interference” with ADA rights. Interference is a broader concept than retaliation. Under the ADA, it is illegal to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or otherwise interfere with a person’s exercise of their ADA rights. Examples of interference include:

  • Coercing an person to relinquish or forgo an accommodation to which he or she is entitled
  • Intimidating an applicant from requesting accommodation
  • Threatening an employee with termination or other adverse treatment if she does not “voluntarily” submit to a medical examination or inquiry that is otherwise prohibited under the ADA
  • Issuing a policy or requirement that attempts to limit an employee’s ADA rights
  • Interfering with a former employee’s right to file an ADA lawsuit against the former employer
  • Subjecting an employee to unwarranted discipline, demotion, or other adverse treatment because he assisted a coworker in requesting reasonable accommodation.

Critically, a threat does not have to be carried out in order to violate the ADA interference provision. Moreover, you do not actually have to be deterred from exercising or enjoying ADA rights in order for the interference to be actionable.

How Do You File A Retaliation Or Interference Lawsuit?

All retaliation victims must file their claims with the EEOC or the PHRC before going to court. This is called “exhausting administrative remedies.” The FMLA does not require you to file these claims, however.

How Long After Filing An EEOC Or PHRC Retaliation Or Interference Complaint Can You Sue Your Employer?

The EEOC requires at least 180 days to investigate your claim. If the EEOC is not completed within 180 days, you are able to request a “Notice of Right to Sue.” When you receive this notice, you have 90 days to file your lawsuit.

The PHRA requires one year for investigation, unlike the EEOC. You also do not require a Notice of Right to Sue to take your case to court under the PHRA.

Complaints filed under the ADEA, however, only require 60 days before you can pursue your claim in court. You do not need a Notice of Right to Sue in these cases as well, as long as the 60-day wait period has passed.

What Damages Can An Employee Recover For A Retaliation Claim?

There are three different types of damages for retaliation or interference claims at work:

  • Economic damages: This typically includes compensation for lost wages, both past and future.
  • Compensatory damages: Generally, this includes emotional distress, physical pain, and inconvenience.
  • Punitive damages: These are meant to punish your employer for intentional misconduct.

There are, however, limits to the amount of compensation you can pursue under a retaliation claim. While economic damages are not capped, the ADA and Title VII limit the total amount of compensatory and punitive compensation based on your employer:

  • $50,000 for employers with between 15 and 100 employees
  • $100,000 for employers with between 101 and 200 employees
  • $200,000 for employers with between 201 and 500 employees
  • $300,000 for employers with over 500 employees

This does not apply tot he ADEA and FMLA, as compensatory damages cannot be awarded in these cases. Liquidated damages may be recovered if your employer’s actions were intentional, however, but they cannot be more than your economic damages.

Like Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, and the FMLA, the PHRA does not limit economic damages. Unlike the ADA, the ADEA, the FMLA and Title VII, the PHRA does not limit compensatory damages. It does not provide punitive or liquidated damages, however.

By consulting an employment law attorney, you can better determine what kinds of damages you are entitled to under State and Federal law.

How Long Will It Take To Resolve A Workplace Retaliation Case?

Workplace retaliation claims can resolve anywhere from several months to a few years after the initial claim. The exact amount of time depends on a variety of factors:

  • The complexity of the details of your case
  • The number of parties you are suing
  • The number of witnesses involved
  • Whether your employer has insurance to cover your retaliation or interference claim
  • Which types and amounts of damages you are claiming
  • Your employer’s relative willingness to settle your case

If you handle your retaliation or interference case on your own, it can take a lot longer to resolve. This can cause a lot of uncertainty, stress, and wasted time. In order to make sure that your case is moving towards resolution, it is necessary to have an experienced workplace retaliation lawyer by your side.