What Is Employer Retaliation?

Workplace retaliation against employees is illegal. Unfortunately, it is prevalent in California. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that retaliation is a frequent basis of discrimination in the federal sector. It is also widespread in the private sector. 

Many federal and state laws prohibit employers from taking action against an employee who complains about discriminatory or unsafe working conditions. The laws also protect employees from retaliation for engaging in protected activities. 

Employer retaliation can be difficult to prove. However, a San Diego retaliation lawyer can help you gather evidence, pursue a claim, and seek compensation for damages caused by employer retaliation. 

Recognizing Employer Retaliation When It Happens to You

Whenever you assert your rights in the workplace, it is essential to watch for signs of employer retaliation. Keep detailed records and notes of conversations with employers and their actions after you raise an issue or file a complaint.

Employer retaliation can take many forms. It occurs when an employer takes adverse employment actions after an employee exercises legally protected rights. 

Some of the actions that could be considered retaliatory include, but are not limited to:

  • Reductions in pay
  • Demotions 
  • Being passed over for raises or promotions 
  • Information and formal employee reprimands and discipline
  • Reduction in hours
  • Denial of access to human resources
  • Harassment
  • Reduction in employee perks or benefits
  • Being excluded, snubbed, or ignored
  • Sexual harassment
  • Increased scrutiny and supervision
  • Reassignment to a less desirable workspace, shift, or department 
  • Excluding employees from meetings they should attend
  • Unfounded negative performance reviews or poor performance reviews
  • Denial or training
  • Threats of termination of employment 
  • Wrongful termination 

In general, any act of employer discipline that discourages employees from asserting their rights could be a form of retaliation. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who engaged in protected activity, regardless of how minor the retaliation might appear.

Who is Protected From Employer Retaliation in California?

All employees in California are protected from employer retaliation for asserting their rights in the workplace. Furthermore, anyone else who assists in the investigation or participates in the investigation about a workplace complaint is protected from employer retaliation. 

Other employees who participate in the investigation must be protected from retaliation. Without legal protections, employers could coerce or threaten employees who offer corroborating testimony or evidence that proves the allegations against the employer are true.

What Are Some Common Reasons Why Employers Retaliate Against an Employee?

There are many reasons why an employer would retaliate against an employee for engaging in lawful behavior. Some of the situations that might result in retaliation include, but are not limited to:

  • Taking time off for pregnancy or other approved leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) or the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim 
  • Complaining of discrimination based on sex, gender, religion, age, race, or another protected class 
  • Filing a whistleblower complaint
  • Refusing to participate in discriminatory actions 
  • Complaining of workplace harassment or the creation of a hostile work environment
  • Filing an action for unpaid wages or overtime
  • Complaining about unsafe workplace conditions and hazards
  • Refusing to engage in an illegal activity 
  • Taking leave for jury duty or military service
  • Requesting reasonable accommodations for a disability
  • Filing or assisting with a qui tam lawsuit

Some employers discriminate against employees who stand up for their rights. Employers who retaliate because an employee asserts their legal rights can be held liable for their actions.

What Laws Protect Employees From Retaliation in the Workplace?

California employees are protected from employer retaliation by several laws. The following are some of the laws that you might use to bring an action for employer retaliation:

Fair Employment and Housing Act 

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects against employer retaliation for reporting or opposing harassment or discrimination in the workplace. 

Whistleblower Protection 

California Labor Code §1102.5 protects whistleblowers. Several other California whistleblower laws for specific wrongdoing, such as reporting health and safety violations.

Whistleblowers are employees who report wrongdoing by their employers. The wrongdoing may include illegal activities and regulatory violations. The law also protects employees who testify or provide evidence to a government body about employer wrongdoing. 

Federal employees are also protected by the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act. 

California False Claims Act

Employees are protected from retaliation for filing or helping with a qui tam lawsuit by the California False Claims Act. Employees have the right to file a lawsuit against their employer for committing fraud, theft, or embezzlement against a government entity. 

How Do You File a Workplace Retaliation Claim?

The process for filing retaliation claims depends on the circumstances of the retaliation and the applicable law. In some cases, you may begin by filing an administrative claim with a government agency. The agency determines whether there is sufficient evidence to investigate and prosecute the claim. 

If the government agency refuses to prosecute the claim, you might then be able to file a lawsuit in civil court. In other cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit without going through a government agency.

Because different laws could apply in your case, it is wise to seek legal advice from an experienced employment lawyer before filing a complaint. Your attorney analyzes your case, determines the applicable law, and follows the correct procedures to protect your best interests and rights.

What Damages Could You Receive for a Workplace Retaliation Claim?

The damages you could receive as a victim of employer retaliation depend on the type and facts in your case. For example, if you did not lose your job, you could receive compensation for damages such as:

  • Loss of income caused by retaliatory actions such as missed promotions, reductions in pay, etc.
  • Damages caused by emotional distress
  • The harm caused to your professional reputation by retaliatory actions

Individuals who were wrongfully terminated could also receive compensation for lost benefits and wages, attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages. 

How Do I Know if My Employer Acted Illegally?

The best way to know if you have an employer retaliation claim is to talk with an employment law attorney. Employer retaliation can be subtle. 

If you suspect that your company is taking adverse actions against you for reasons other than performance, talk with a lawyer. Lawyers can be objective in determining if the retaliatory behavior rises to the level of employer retaliation under federal law.

The sooner you seek advice, the sooner an attorney can help you build your case. You must begin gathering evidence as quickly as possible to prove your case. Hiring an attorney to guide you through the evidence collection process can help prevent errors that could be crucial in proving your retaliation claim.

Contact Our San Diego Retaliation Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation 

Dealing with employer retaliation can be overwhelming. Your employer is punishing you for doing the right thing or for something that was not your fault. You are not alone – we are here to help.

Contact us today to schedule your free consultation with a San Diego employment law attorney. Let’s discuss your situation and your legal options for resolving the matter.