Retaliation in the Workplace

By: JML Law | September 4, 2018.
Retaliation in the Workplace

Retaliation occurs when an employer intentionally harms an employee’s employment because the employee participated in an activity that is protected by federal or state employment law. For example, if an employer fires an employee for taking legally afforded maternity leave or because the employee reported an employer’s illegal activities, that employee is a victim of retaliation. Retaliation also extends to future employment in that an employer cannot refuse to hire a job applicant because he or she engaged in a legally protected activity at a prior employment.

Protected activities

Protected activities are protections set forth in federal and California law to prevent an employer from punishing an employee for making a complaint about workplace discrimination or harassment. An employer also may not punish an employee for participating in a workplace investigation looking into alleged illegal workplace activity. In California, an employee may not be punished for participating in any of the following or for cooperating in an investigation into any of the following:

  • Reporting discrimination
  • Asking for reasonable disability or religious accommodations
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • Reporting workplace hazardous substances or safety and health violations
  • Filing a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner
  • Refusing sexual advances

This list is not inclusive and if you suspect you have been the subject of workplace retaliation, schedule a consultation with our Los Angeles retaliation attorney who will review the facts of your case and help you take the next appropriate steps.

Types of adverse actions against an employee

Exercising an employment right is a courageous act that employees all too often avoid because they recognize that their livelihood may be at risk and it’s for this exact reason that employment laws exist. No one should have to silently endure illegal workplace harassment or discrimination and no one should be punished for reporting that activity. Here are some common types of retaliatory punishments that may take place after an employee exercises his or her rights:

  • Increased workload or making work more difficult in general
  • Abuse or harassment
  • Termination
  • Constructive termination – this occurs when an employer, in an effort to punish the employee for engaging in legally protected conduct, makes an employee’s work environment so unbearable that it forces the employee to quit.
  • Increased scrutiny of employee’s job performance
  • Demotion
  • Denied promotion
  • Reduced pay
  • Negative performance reviews
  • Discipline
  • Job reassignment to a less desirable position
  • Making or threatening to make reports to authorities such as reporting immigration status
  • Spreading false rumors about the employee

Unique California remedy

In California, a former employee may petition for an injunction seeking to have his or her job reinstated until the retaliation case is resolved. The Labor Code provides that a “court shall order injunctive relief upon a reasonable showing that reasonable cause exists that an employee has been discharged or subjected to an adverse action for raising a claim of retaliation or asserting rights under any law under the jurisdiction of the Labor Commissioner.” This is a unique remedy that offers an employee financial protection during the time that the report or complaint is being reviewed.

Reporting illegal activity and cooperating with a workplace investigation are stressful and scary and being retaliated against after having the courage to come forward in the first place is unfair and illegal. Let JML Law help you get peace of mind and the remedies you deserve.

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