Dig if you will this scenario- you have personal knowledge that a colleague in the workplace is being subjected to some form of unlawful treatment (ranging from sexual harassment to gender discrimination, or any other form of prohibited conduct.)
You decide to go ahead and report said conduct to Human Resources and/or upper management, because your conscience tells you that it’s the right thing to do. In other words, you decide to aid or encourage your colleague in the exercise of, or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by the law.
In the five boroughs of New York City, what you are doing is considered a ‘protected activity.’
For example, Section 8-107(19) of the NYC Human Rights Law, sets forth:
Interference with protected rights. It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with, or attempt to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with, any person in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his or her having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected pursuant to this section.
Therefore, if you decide to go ahead and report the unlawful conduct on behalf of your colleague, the law is supposed to protect you from retribution of any kind, in the workplace, as you are aiding another employee in the exercise or enjoyment of his or her rights.
There are laws in other geographic areas that may also be protective of a person who engages in this type of protected activity- consult with an experienced employment lawyer, to learn more about your rights in this regard.
The law provides protections for individuals (employees and former employees) who come forward on behalf of other employees who are subjected to unlawful conduct. Many employers nowadays (thanks to extensive equal employment opportunity training and education from their own lawyers), respect the law and the rights of these individuals.
What if you are an employee in Human Resources? Can you still aid employees in the exercise or enjoyment of their rights? Some courts have held that Human Resources employees are deemed to have stepped outside their role of representing the company by reporting acts of discrimination to upper management, and as a result, should be protected from retribution.
If you do get up, stand up, for the rights of another, and you experience retribution from your employer, or former employer, consult with an experienced employment lawyer, right away, to protect your interests.
If you got up, stood up—for another employee- the law should protect you.