Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on a person’s race, among other factors. However, the law goes a step further to protect employees who oppose, report, complain of, or participate in an investigation regarding workplace discrimination. The law prohibits an employer from taking any adverse employment action against employees who participate in the above opposition to discrimination. Examples of adverse employment action include discipline, demotion, pay decrease or denial of a raise, denial of benefits, job transfer, denial of promotion, or termination.
Recent Retaliation Case
In one interesting recent case out of New York, a son has claimed he suffered retaliation for his father’s cooperation in an investigation regarding discriminatory behavior. Both John Puglisi, Sr. and John Puglisi, Jr. worked for the Town of Hempstead’s Sanitation Department. The father was a supervisor and his son was a sanitation worker. One day in 2007, the employees gathered in the district’s garage as usual before work, only to discover someone had hung a hangman’s noose there. Several employees took the noose as an act of racial discrimination and filed complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights. Puglisi, Sr. actively participated in the investigation, stating that he did believe the noose was a discriminatory action by employees of the District.
Shortly following his father’s cooperation with the investigation, Puglisi, Jr. said that he experienced retaliation from the District in the following ways:
-Regularly assigning him unpleasant to collect large amounts of debris from various locations in excess of the limits set forth by ordinance.
-Requiring him to collect dangerous chemicals.
-Refusing to pay his medical bills.
-Denying him use of a deserved personal day to accompany his pregnant wife to a doctor’s appointment.
-Giving him an unsigned, and therefore useless, paycheck.
Puglisi, Jr. alleges that all of these distasteful job assignments and other mistreatment were forms of retaliation because of his father’s involvement in and cooperation with the investigation surrounding the hangman’s noose. Though the case has not yet been settled, the court found that the case could proceed to trial because a jury could possibly find that the adverse employment actions were, in fact, retaliation for his father’s cooperation and allegations of discriminatory behavior. The court found there was enough temporal proximity between the father’s participation in the investigation and the “inconvenient and annoying, and, at worst, potentially dangerous” actions against the son. Furthermore, Puglisi, Jr. had never experienced that kind of adverse employment action at work prior to his father’s involvement in the investigation. Therefore, the action could be found to be unlawful retaliation.
If you have experienced any type of discrimination or retaliation at work, you should contact HKM Employment Attorneys to see if you have a possible claim in court.