Retaliating against a worker for engaging in lawful, protected activities is illegal under New York and federal laws. However, some employers still do this kind of thing. And sometimes, they get creative in their retaliatory actions.
For instance, an employer is now facing a lawsuit after he allegedly dumped 91,500 oily pennies on the man’s driveway.
Costly consequences of retaliation
The situation arose when the former employee at an auto-repair shop filed a report with the U.S. Department of Labor saying his employer had not given him his final paycheck for $915.
The Labor Department contacted the employer who initially refused to pay. However, he changed his mind and decided to dump 91,500 pennies covered in oil onto the man’s driveway. He also included an explicit note.
It took the man about seven hours to clean up the 500 pounds of pennies.
The DOL filed the lawsuit accusing the employer of retaliation, failure to pay overtime and failure to keep accurate hour and wage records. What started as a conflict over $915 has become a lawsuit seeking $36,971 and a stain on the auto shop’s reputation.
Avoiding similar situations
No matter what retaliation looks like or where it occurs, it is illegal. It could involve firing someone for requesting to take job-protected leave or harassing someone who files a complaint, as was the case here.
Whatever the retaliatory action is, it could trigger lawsuits and expensive settlements, not to mention the damage of unflattering press.
Employers in New York can avoid similar situations by refraining from punishing any employee who engages in activities including:
- Reporting unsafe workplaces
- Requesting time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act
- Complaining about discrimination
- Refusing to engage in illegal activity
- Serving as a witness in a harassment case
Employees have the right to engage in these activities without fear of punishment by employers.
As an employee, you can protect yourself by holding employers accountable for unlawful behaviors.
Regardless of how upset an employer may be when an employee complains, quits or attempts to correct unfair practices, retaliation should never be the answer. If it is, there are legal consequences to hold parties accountable.