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New York to Penalize Employers for Retaliating Against Immigrant Employees

diversityEmployers are not allowed to retaliate against immigrant employees in New York

On July 27, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that prohibits employers in New York State from retaliating against employees by contacting or threatening to contact immigration authorities. The measure also extends the protection to threats or actions against an employee’s family or household members. The law took effect on August 15, 2019.

Under the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”), it was already illegal for an employer to discharge, threaten, penalize, or in any other manner, discriminate or retaliate against any employee because the employee has filed a complaint that his or her employer has violated the NYLL or intends to institute a proceeding under the NYLL.

However, the new law expands this language, which clarifies that retaliation includes reporting or threatening to report the suspected citizenship or immigration status of an employee or an employee’s family to federal, state, or local authorities. New York State Attorney General Letitia James proposed this expansion due to increasing reports that employers were threatening undocumented workers with potential deportation for standing up for their rights. James acknowledged that immigrants are more likely than American citizens to be victims of wage theft, sexual harassment and misclassification as independent contractors rather than employees entitled to benefits. Yet, many of these illegal acts by employers go unreported due to fear of retaliation in the form of deportation threats.

For undocumented immigrants, facing retaliation can be as frightening, if not more so, than an employer’s adverse actions. If you or someone you know is experiencing a toxic or dangerous work environment, it is important to remember that it is against the law for your employer to retaliate against you for reporting the illegal conduct, regardless of your immigration status.

If you would like to speak to someone about a situation in your workplace or have concerns about retaliation, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to schedule a free consultation.

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