Whether you are a young person in school or an adult at work, you probably know what it’s like to be drawn into a dispute between two quarreling sides. In school, siding with the wrong person may leave you in fear of losing friends or being excluded from a particular social circle. At work, the stakes are much higher, as choosing a side may leave you in fear of losing your livelihood. Fortunately, the law in New Jersey protects many workers whose employers try to force them to take the employer’s side in another employee’s discrimination or harassment case. If your employer takes adverse action against you for refusing to become involved, then you may have a valid case of your own – for retaliation. If that’s you, be sure to reach out without delay and retain a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney.
E.R. was someone who sued after his employer placed him in that kind of dilemma. He was an EMT supervisor at a hospital in Secaucus. E.R.’s supervisor, R.R., told the EMT that another employee, H.B., had filed a sexual harassment complaint. The supervisor instructed E.R. that the he “needed to be a team player” and needed “to play ball and help the hospital.” More ominously, the supervisor told the EMT that, as an employee of the hospital, E.R. was required “to protect the hospital” and that the employer expected him “to help out.” Being a “team player,” in this instance, meant telling the lawyers exactly what the supervisor told him to say.
E.R. allegedly objected to the supervisor’s plan and refused to “play ball.” After that refusal, the employer allegedly removed some of E.R.’s responsibilities as an EMS supervisor and then later fired him.
E.R. launched his own lawsuit, asserting that the employer illegally retaliated against him for refusing to cooperate with the employer’s scheme and refusing to lie at about H.B.
The Appellate Division court ruled for the E.R. He had a viable case because he had a “good faith and reasonable basis” for his actions. In a case based on your employer’s retaliation against you in connection with another employee’s discrimination or harassment lawsuit, the law does not necessarily require that the other worker’s original discrimination or harassment claim be something that has a good faith basis. The thing that the law does require is that you took your action in good faith.
Your retaliation claim can be valid even if your co-worker’s discrimination case wasn’t
So, in E.R.’s case, it didn’t matter whether or not H.B. had a legitimate case of sexual harassment. What mattered was whether or not E.R. had a good faith for the action he took; namely, refusing to give false testimony against the woman. The EMT and the woman were friends but, prior to the supervisor’s comments, E.R. had no idea that his friend was taking legal action against the employer. E.R. allegedly had no knowledge regarding whether the things his supervisor told him to say were true or not, so that gave him a good faith and reasonable basis for refusing to do what the supervisor instructed. This, in turn, made the firing a potential act of illegal retaliation.
Workplace retaliation can take many forms. It may look like an employer illegal punishing you for exercising your right in the wake of your having suffered discrimination or harassment. It may also look like an employer punishing you for refusing to “help” or “play ball with” the employer in its defense against another worker’s discrimination or harassment case. Whatever form your retaliation takes, the right legal team can help you get the compensation you deserve. The experienced New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates are here to provide you with the legal representation you need for success. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.