California and federal laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who engage in protected activities. For example, suppose an employee files a complaint about unlawful discrimination based on race. In that case, the employer is prohibited from firing the employee or taking any other adverse action against them. Retaliation involves making a change that will impact an employee’s job negatively and materially.
Employers Cannot Retaliate Against Employees for Engaging in a Protected Activity
If those changes would deter or discourage a reasonable person from making or pursuing a complaint, the employer has engaged in unlawful retaliation. Employees should feel safe and free from adverse consequences when they file complaints about potentially unlawful conditions in the workplace.
While participating in a protected activity may be the initiating event in a retaliation case, the outcome of that participation has little bearing on the validity of the retaliation case. In other words, it does not matter if the underlying charges made by the employee and the initial complaint are proven to be true or false.
When an employer retaliates against an employee who brought the complaint, they have violated state and federal employment laws. Anti-retaliation laws are intended to protect an employee’s rights to bring attention to illegal or inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
What Constitutes a Protected Activity?
California’s anti-retaliation laws protect employees’ legal right to engage in protected activities. To prove that your employer has unlawfully retaliated against you, you must show that you were engaged in a protected activity, resulting in your employer taking adverse action against you. There are several types of actions employees can take that are considered protected activities under the law, including the following:
- Filing an internal or external complaint or lawsuit
- Acting as a witness in a complaint or lawsuit
- Reporting discrimination complaints to a manager or supervisor
- Participating in an external or external investigation of discrimination or harassment
- Refusing unwanted sexual advances or intervening to protect others who’ve been the recipient of unwanted sexual advances
- Refusing to follow a manager’s orders that would produce a discriminatory result
- Requesting accommodations for a religious practice or disability
Common Examples of Workplace Retaliation
There are many different ways employers can covertly or obviously retaliate against employees who participate in filing a claim against the employer. Any type of adverse action against the employee could be considered workplace retaliation. If the employer does any of the following after an employee participates in a protected activity, the employee may have a claim for retaliation:
- Passes over the employee for a promotion or pay raise
- Demotes the employee
- Transfers the employee to a less favorable shift or position
- Cuts the employee’s pay or work hours
- Puts the employee under increased scrutiny
- Delivers an undeservedly negative performance review
- Excludes the employee from workplace activities
- Denies or limits the employee’s access to professional or training opportunities
- Engages in verbal or physical harassment or abuse
- Engages in intimidating or threatening tactics like threatening to report an employee to the authorities if they file a claim or after they have filed a claim
- Punishes an employee by spreading false rumors about that employee or taking adverse actions against other employees who are close to the employee
- Terminating the employee’s employment
- Interfering with the employee’s ability to seek new employment by giving the employee an unjustly negative reference letter or telling other employers not to hire the employee
Do I Need to Hire a Riverside Retaliation Attorney?
If you know or suspect that you have been retaliated against in the workplace, it is wise to hire a workplace retaliation attorney as soon as possible. Proving retaliation can be difficult, especially if your employer denies that they have retaliated against you. Suppose you were demoted after filing an internal claim related to sexual harassment. your employer may claim that you were demoted because of poor work performance when, in reality, you were demoted in retaliation for filing a claim.
An attorney can help you gather evidence proving that your employer acted in an adverse way toward you because of the claim you filed. Additionally, an attorney can help you prove that your employer’s adverse action was a reaction to your protected activity. Most employers will not admit to acting in a retaliatory manner. Nonetheless, your attorney can interview witnesses and gather documentation that can shed light on the timing of the adverse action and the awareness of the person who took an adverse action against you.
When there is a lack of other reasonable explanations for the employer’s adverse behavior toward you, it can prove that you were retaliated against. For example, your attorney can gather witness statements and other performance reviews to show that you met employment standards when demoted.
How Long Do I Have to Pursue a Retaliation Claim?
An attorney with experience handling retaliation claims will be able to evaluate the strength of your case along with its weaknesses. Employment retaliation claims often have short statutes of limitations or deadlines. If you wait too long to speak to an attorney, you could lose your opportunity to pursue a retaliation claim.
An attorney can help you understand the deadlines that apply to your case and the steps you need to take to pursue a claim against your employer. Specific procedures must be followed, deadlines must be met, and your attorney can help you hit these marks. Your attorney will gather needed evidence, determine how much compensation you are owed, negotiate with your employer, and potentially bring a lawsuit on your behalf.
Schedule an Initial Consultation With a Riverside Retaliation Attorney
Workplace retaliation is serious and can threaten an employee’s reputation, livelihood, and future. It can leave an employee feeling isolated, powerless, and alone. You aren’t alone if you have been the victim of workplace retaliation.
If you are prepared to learn more about whether you have a claim, HKM Employment Attorneys are prepared to fight for your rights. We firmly believe that harassment, discrimination, and retaliation have no place in Riverside workplaces. We will fight aggressively on your behalf. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation.