The New York State Department of Labor today announced the expansion of NYSDOL’s Anti-Retaliation work to include additional staff and training for the unit. The addition of retaliation protections to many recent labor laws have significantly impacted NYSDOL’s Division of Worker Protection, Division of Labor Standards, and Division of Occupational Safety & Health (DOSH). Expanding the pool of staff investigating and working on retaliation complaints and expanding training for all staff involved will help to alleviate this additional workload and speed up the investigation process. Retaliation can occur anywhere, and NYSDOL’s priority is ensuring the safety and well-being of its workers and New Yorkers.
“Governor Hochul and the legislature have been working hard to include retaliation protections in a growing number of labor laws, so it is a must to expand our Anti-Retaliation Unit to be able to accommodate these increased protections,” said New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “Having a dedicated legal counsel for this unit allows them to be laser-focused on providing assistance to our investigation teams, ensuring every case is dealt with as efficiently as possible to get New Yorkers the help they need in a timely manner.”
Retaliation is an action taken against an employee to punish that employee for complaining about labor law violations, providing information to investigators, or participating in proceedings at NYS or US DOL. It can take many forms. Examples of retaliatory actions include:
- Dismissal from employment
- Cut in work hours
- Reschedule for less desired hours
- Reassignment to a less desired work location
- Cut in pay
- Disciplinary action
- More intensive or critical supervision
- Demotion or transfer
- Withdrawal of previously allowed privileges
- Assignment to more difficult duties
- Demanding increased production
- Physical assault by the employer or employer representatives
- Threats to take such actions, and/or threats to subject the employee to a lawsuit or criminal authorities, or deportation authorities.
In November, Governor Hochul signed into law a bill that clarifies that it is illegal for employers to threaten, penalize, discriminate, or retaliate against employees for using absences protected under federal, state, or local law, including time off covered by New York State Paid Family Leave and New York State Paid Sick Leave. Laws like these are part of New York’s recent push to fight against workplace retaliation, but they do increase the number of investigations that will be needed.
Currently, investigations are done through NYSDOL’s Labor Standards and DOSH teams. These teams will continue to take the lead on investigations, but the new Anti-Retaliation and Investigative Counsel will act as a specialized advisor.
The expanded Anti-Retaliation work will allow investigators/inspectors in Labor Standards and DOSH to work closely with the Anti-Retaliation and Investigative Counsel when egregious acts of retaliation are alleged. In Public Employees Safety and Health, staff will work with Counsel to review claims of retaliation against employees who raise safety and health concerns. This close collaboration will further allow investigators and inspectors to produce stronger cases, ensuring that the Anti-Retaliation and Investigative Counsel can successfully defend the Department’s determinations at administrative hearings. The Department will develop comprehensive training for all investigators and inspectors on retaliation with an emphasis on the new labor laws with retaliation components, as well as how to identify retaliation and the best way to support workers who may be facing retaliatory action.
Retaliation investigations continue to be a priority for the Division of Labor Standards and Division of Occupational Safety & Health. Since 2017, DOSH has received 118 PESH Retaliatory Discrimination complaints and closed 88. On the more recently enacted HERO act complaints DOSH has received 32 complaints and closed 4. Since 2016, Labor Standards has completed 1,577 cases that included a retaliation component and recovered/paid out approximately a combined $4.4 million in damages, wages and penalties.
For more information visit our NYSDOL Retaliation webpage and to report retaliation contact NYSDOL’s Division of Labor Standards at 1-888-52-LABOR or [email protected].