Let’s say you are aware of a workplace hazard that causes you serious concern. You have mentioned it to your boss, but nothing happens to alleviate the problem. What choice do you have now but to go outside the company to report it to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)? Reluctantly, you file the report, hoping that an inspection will ensue. What comes your way now is utterly unexpected: Your next performance rating is entirely unlike previous performance assessments, as your employer now seems to find you lacking in a number of areas. Not only that, you are forced into what your employer references as a “lateral move” within the company. In your mind, it is a much less desirable position. What is happening here? It feels to you like retaliation for filing the report with OSHA. An experienced employment attorney can help you sift through it and figure out next steps.
Forms of Employer Retaliation
Employers sometimes choose to retaliate against a worker whom they believe has wronged them, in an attempt to get them to voluntarily leave the company. These discriminatory actions take many forms:
- Creating hostile work environments;
- Issuing demotions or unwanted lateral transfers;
- Passing over employees when it comes to promotions;
- Providing poor performance reviews that are not in sync with previous assessments;
- Making negative job referrals, or documenting employee complaints in employee files;
- Restricting severance packages;
- Making excuses to fire or lay off employees.
What the Law Says About Retaliation
Notably, state and federal laws prohibit employer retaliation under any circumstances. Even so, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) confirms that it is a major employment issue, with roughly half of all employment complaints filed with their offices relating to retaliation. If retaliatory behaviors are not squelched, the impact could be daunting; employees would quickly get the message that reporting workplace problems is a dangerous proposition, and hazards could become rampant. That is why the EEOC takes such claims seriously. The legal standard required for proving a claim is that management behavior might reasonably deter a typical person from filing such a report.
Remedies for Employer Retaliation
The federal consequences for retaliation are sufficiently serious as to discourage many employers from making this type of mistake:
- Preliminary relief: The EEOC asks the courts to stop the retaliatory actions while the EEOC processes the complaint;
- Compensatory damages: Financial compensation may be awarded to cover past and future wage loss, costs associated with finding a new job, etc. Compensation for mental/emotional pain and suffering may be deemed fitting, as well.
- Punitive damages: Fines against the company (not government entities) may be levied to punish illegal actions;
- Other relief: Changes in company policies, reinstatement to previous position, or other relief as determined appropriate may be mandated.
Under California statute, LLC’s and corporations may face up to $10,000 in civil liabilities, as well.
If you suspect employer retaliation for any reason, you may have cause to file a lawsuit. The knowledgeable and aggressive employment attorneys at HKM in Los Angeles know just how to proceed. Contact us today to consult with a member of our team.