Protesting as a City Employee
What should I do before I go out to march or protest?
Download Signal on your phone to be in secure communication with others while protesting.
Make sure you are in contact with march organizers before you arrive to get details about check-in and security protocols.
If you can, plan to have a “buddy” arrive and march with you.
If you are a union member, check in with a trusted union colleague to let them know you will be participating and to seek any advice they may have.
If there is a planned march route, make sure you know what it is so you can follow along in case you get separated from the group.
Should I request a sick day or a vacation day to protest?
Yes! Make sure to get clearance with your supervisor beforehand if you will be taking a sick day or a vacation day. If you are requesting a sick day, make sure it complies with your office’s sick time policy and be prepared to back up the claim if your supervisor asks for documentation or more information. Your safest bet may be taking a vacation day if that is available to you. Whatever you do, just make sure you are not protesting while on City time.
Should I say I am a city employee while protesting?
From MOIA Legal Counsel: “In order to abide by the City's Conflict of Interest Laws (intranet link), employees engaging in protest activity should be mindful that they must do so in their personal capacity and not to represent themselves as speaking for... the City, and they should not use their City ID cards or other City resources to influence others. This would be considered a misuse of City resources under the law. Further information about the appropriate use of City resources is detailed in the link above.”
What if I’m arrested?
From MOIA Legal Counsel: “Under Mayor’s Office policy, any Mayor’s Office employee who is arrested for any reason is required to notify Kapil Longani, Counsel to the Mayor, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at 212-341-5074 within 24 hours of the arrest.”
Additionally, there is a list of pro bono attorneys willing to represent protesters below.
Retaliation and Discrimination
Is there anything I can do now to set me up better in case my supervisor seeks retaliation?
Document everything! Make sure there is a record of all relevant written communications with your supervisor or any other member of your team. If you had in-person or over-the-phone communications, make sure you take note of those immediately after.
Review your employment agreement with the City before you march or protest so you are refreshed on the terms and understand the boundaries within which you may have to operate. If you are a union member, contact a trusted union rep to let them know your plans and discuss your options.
What could happen to me after I return to work from protesting?
You should be prepared for anything to happen, including being penalized or let go. This is why it is important that you document all communications and interactions with your supervisors and other staff. Doing so arms you with information should you need to seek legal counsel or bring up a case with the City for unlawful retaliation or discrimination.
What should I do if I believe I’ve been unfairly retaliated against or discriminated by my employer?
If you believe you have been discriminated against by your employer, you should consider filing a complaint with the appropriate Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) department within your office or agency. You can find the City’s EEO Policy here and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services’ EEO Complaint Procedural Guide here.
Additionally, the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Labor Policy & Standards (OLPS) is a resource for all workers in NYC. According to their website, if you have questions about workplace rights or if you think your rights have been violated, you can fill out this intake form and email it to the address listed therein or hand it in to a OLPS staff member in person.
Lastly, you should consider seeking legal counsel if and when appropriate.
Are there any lawyers I can contact?
NYC : Benson Michael : 716-592-2900
NYC : Kevin James : 646-725-9575
NYC : Paul V. Prestia : 212-937-7765
NYC : Adrienne D. Edward, PC : 201-420-8850
NYC : The Bayonne Firm : 929-333-6497
NYC : NLGNYCnews : 212-679-6018
NYC : GoodCall NYC : 1-833-346-6322
NYC : Dan Lynch : 917-747-7164
NYC / Long Island : Lerner & Lerner, PC : 516-741-4100
NYC / Long Island : Madden Law : 917-318-4067
Rochester : Briones Law : 210-761-6884
NY and NJ : Alexander J. Rinaldi : 973-584-1520
Before you Arrive
Dress in dark colors.
Bring your City ID but keep it in your pocket, not on display.
Let a trusted friend or family member know that you’re protesting and where you plan to be, checking in regularly to let them know you’re OK (using an encrypted messaging service like Signal).
Turn off Face ID and Touch ID on your phone but maintain a password-protected lock screen.
Have a plan for displaying an emergency contact number -- you can write it on your arm or on a wristband or a piece of paper you plan to carry with you.
Turn off location services for as many apps as you can.
Turn off lock-screen notifications.
Do not connect to public wifi.
Do not post pictures showing fellow protesters’ faces.
Act like anything you post on social media is public. If you wouldn’t want someone in your unit to read or see what you post, refrain from posting.
NYC Protest Safety Zine (Website + IG Post) - A comprehensive guide of techniques to help keep you safe before, during, and after a protest
NYCLU: Know Your Rights: Demonstrating in NYC - Do’s and Don’ts while protesting in the City
Right to Protest: Protect Your Protest - Key advice about keeping yourself and others safe while protesting