You have probably known someone who had a mean streak. Maybe it was a schoolyard bully whose efforts to torment you escalated after you complained to a teacher about their threats. Perhaps it was a neighbor who spread malicious rumors about you to everyone in the neighborhood after you confronted them about the overgrown weeds in their yard or their aggressive dogs. Maybe it is the shopper in the grocery store who curses at you or threatens you when you take the last bunch of parsley off the shelf. Behaving vindictively toward someone because they did something that made you angry, or simply because their existence makes you angry, is as mean as it is unprofessional. While there are no laws against being mean, the law does prohibit employer retaliation against employees. If your employer fired you or tried to sabotage your career after you did something that you have the legal right to do, contact the Irvine employment discrimination and employer retaliation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
What is Retaliation?
In the context of employment law, retaliation is when an employer unfairly punishes an employee for engaging in a legally protected activity. You can prove that the employer’s adverse action against you was a direct result of you filing a complaint or engaging in another protected action. These are some examples of adverse actions by employers:
- Termination of employment
- Non-renewal of an employment contract
- Demotion or reduction in pay
- Denial of a promotion or pay raise
- Unfairly negative performance review
- Reassigning the employee to undesirable job duties or an undesirable work schedule
- Hostile work environment
Of all of these types of retaliation, the hostile work environment may be the worst. A hostile work environment consists of bullying and harassment. Harassing coworkers is against the law, but in a hostile work environment, your direct supervisors, the human resources personnel, and even the upper-level managers in the company either ignore the harassment and do not take your complaints about it seriously, or else participate directly in the harassment. The Irvine employer retaliation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you document and report employer retaliation.
Retaliation is a Form of Employment Discrimination in Irvine
Federal and state laws protect workers and job seekers from employment discrimination, including but not limited to employer retaliation. Discrimination is when an employer treats an employee unfairly because of a protected characteristic of the employee. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) are two of the laws that define protected characteristics and assert people’s right to be protected from discrimination on the basis of them, in the workplace and in other aspects of life, such as housing, healthcare, and civic participation.
The following are examples of protected characteristics:
- Race, skin color, ethnicity, or national origin
- Sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation
- Marital status, family status, or pregnancy
- Age, if the employee is 40 years old or older
- Religion, sect, or lack of religious affiliation
- Country of citizenship, except for certain public sector jobs that require U.S. citizenship
If the employer’s motivation for taking an adverse action against you is your protected characteristic, this is employment discrimination. Case law includes decisions in favor of Black employees who challenged employers’ policies that forbade hairstyles such as braids and locs. The U.S. Supreme Court also issued a decision in favor of a transgender woman whose employer fired her when, following her doctor’s advice, she began dressing as a woman at work and using a feminine first name. Another Supreme Court decision was in favor of a straight woman in the finance sector whose supervisors constantly gave her negative performance reviews because of her speech mannerisms and style of dress, which the supervisors considered un-feminine.
When employees complain about discrimination at work, the harassment sometimes gets worse, or the employer sometimes punishes the employee by taking an adverse action against them. Whatever excuses the employer might offer, this is employment discrimination. If your employer retaliated against you after you filed a discrimination complaint, contact the Irvine employer retaliation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
Retaliation for Engaging in a Legally Protected Activity in Irvine
Employer retaliation is illegal not only in cases of employment discrimination but also if it is in response to an employee engaging in a protected activity. A protected activity is something that you have the right to do without it negatively affecting your standing at work. These are some examples of protected activities:
- Taking up to 24 hours of unpaid leave per year to attend children’s school events or transport family members to doctors’ appointments, pursuant to the California Small Necessities Act
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim
- Voting in elections
- Requesting an unpaid family leave or medical leave pursuant to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
- Reporting a safety violation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Filing a discrimination complaint
- Requesting reasonable accommodations for a disability
- Reporting misconduct or illegal activities at your workplace in a whistleblower action
Retaliation is such a common consequence of whistleblower actions that the federal False Claims Act grants whistleblowers in qui tam actions the right to an award of damages resulting from a lawsuit. Even if your whistleblower action is not covered under the False Claims Act, which deals specifically with allegations that a company is defrauding the federal government, the law still protects you from retaliation.
Filing a discrimination complaint or reporting misconduct is often the beginning of a long and ugly dispute with your employer. If your employer has already started threatening retaliation or taken an adverse action, contact an employment lawyer now. It is also not too soon to contact a lawyer if you have not yet filed the complaint that you believe may lead to retaliation.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Employer Retaliation in Irvine
HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP represents employees in disputes about employment discrimination and employer retaliation. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Irvine, California to set up a consultation.