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Retaliation for workers asserting rights is illegal

Under both state and federal law, workers in New York are protected when they assert their rights to be paid for what they are owed. If they file a complaint with the state or federal government about not getting paid for hours that they have worked, employers are forbidden from taking retaliatory action against them.

In one case out of Texas, the owners of a restaurant thought that their cook had filed a complaint about workers being shorted at the establishment. The restaurant had to pay the worker $25,000. The owners reacted by firing the cook, who had worked for them for 13 years.

Investigators said that the cook had never filed a complaint. Even if he had, his right to do so was protected under the law. Retaliation, including such things as a demotion, firing, reductions in hours, moving workers to inconvenient shifts and any other negative consequences at work, is forbidden by the law. If an employer does retaliate for a worker's asserting his or her rights, the worker may then file a lawsuit and seek damages for the retaliation.

When a business has a pattern and practice of failing to pay its workers for the hours that they have worked, the workers might be able to band together in order to file a class action wage lawsuit. Workers might want to consult with an employment law attorney about their rights and the potential for recovery. An attorney may assist the clients with filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the corresponding state agencies. If the clients are given notice of their right to sue, the attorney may file the complaint and request certification of it as a class action lawsuit.

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