Wrongful Termination Arising From Sexual Harassment

New York Attorneys Serving Victims of Wrongful Termination

Workers in New York have the right to an employment environment free from sexual harassment. New York law further prohibits an employer from firing an employee who complained of workplace sexual harassment. The New York wrongful termination lawyers of Phillips & Associates fight for the rights of employees fired as retaliation for these complaints. If your employer retaliated against you for filing a sexual harassment complaint, you may be entitled to compensation.

Employer Retaliation is Illegal in New York

Not only does New York law prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, it also prohibits a practice known as retaliation. In simple terms, retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse action against an employee in response to the employee’s engaging in a protected activity. For instance, if an employee takes the first step of filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), his or her employer cannot fire the employee for this activity. This would constitute a specific type of retaliation called wrongful termination. An employer who stops short of firing the employee still may be guilty of retaliation if the employer takes other adverse actions against the employee, such as lowering pay or denying benefits.

The Civil Rights Act Protects Workers

The same laws that protect employees from workplace discrimination protect them from retaliation and wrongful termination. On the federal side, the primary law that protects workers is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This broad federal law prohibits discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, and other personal traits. It also prohibits retaliation based on complaints of these types of discrimination.

A retaliation claim under the Civil Rights Act is comprised of three essential elements:

  • The employee must have engaged in a protected activity;
  • The employer must have taken an adverse action against the employee; and
  • A causal connection must link the two.

In a wrongful termination case, the protected act could be filing a complaint with the EEOC for a hostile work environment based on sexual harassment. Other protected activities include testifying as a witness in a discrimination, retaliation, or workers’ compensation case.

If the employee was fired — an adverse action against the employee — the employee would have to prove that the EEOC complaint and the dismissal were causally connected. To prove this, the employee can present direct or circumstantial evidence proving that the reason he or she was fired was the EEOC complaint or other protected activity. Documents and communications obtained in discovery, such as emails or memos, could help the employee prove this element.

State and City Laws Also Provide Rights for Employees

In addition to the Civil Rights Act, the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law also shield workers from sexual harassment and retaliation. These laws prohibit a broader range of retaliatory employer actions than those covered by the Civil Rights Act. Under these two laws, employers still might commit retaliation even if their adverse actions did not materially change the plaintiff’s employment.

Hold Discriminatory Employers Accountable

An employer who fires an employee for complaining of sexual harassment has broken the law twice, and he should have to pay for his illegal practices. If you lost your job due to sexual harassment, you may be entitled to compensation, including reinstatement to your job. The New York employment discrimination attorneys of Phillips & Associates have years of experience helping New Yorkers with problems at work. Call (212) 248-7431 or visit our contact page to schedule a free consultation.