California’s at-will employment rule indicates that employers have the right to terminate most jobs whenever they choose, even if there is no employer misconduct. Exceptions include implied contracts, where the employer issued an offer letter stating the duration of employment, even if the employee did not sign the letter. Even if your employment is on an at-will basis, your employer does not have the right to terminate your job as a punishment for engaging in any of a long list of actions protected by California labor laws. If your employer does this, it is called workplace retaliation, and it is often grounds for a lawsuit. If you think that your employer’s actions constitute workplace retaliation, contact the San Diego employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
What is Employer Retaliation?
Retaliation is when an employer punishes an employee for engaging in an activity that California labor laws specifically permit the employee to do. Retaliation can take the form of any kind of punishment or adverse action, including but not limited to the following:
- Termination of employment, rescinding a job offer, or refusal to renew an employee’s employment contract
- Disciplinary actions such as writing the employee up, putting the employee on probation, or subjecting the employee to stricter supervision or scrutiny
- Demoting the employee, reducing the employee’s pay, or refusal to grant a raise or promotion
- Hostile work environment characterized by harassment, threats, and derogatory comments
- Reassigning the employee to an inconvenient work schedule or undesirable job duties
- Threatening to withdraw sponsorship for the green card or nonimmigrant work visa of the employee or the employee’s spouse or children
- An unfairly negative performance review or unfairly negative reference for future employers
Protected Actions and California Employment Law
California labor laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their legal rights. These are some of the rights that California employees have; it is against the law for your employer to retaliate against you if you do them:
- Insisting on being paid at least the minimum wage, which is $13.00 per hour for companies with 25 or fewer employees and $14.00 per hour for companies with more than 25 employees
- Insisting on being paid the overtime rate of 1.5 times the employee’s usual hourly rate for every hour beyond the 40th that the employee works in a single week
- Reporting a safety violation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim or disputing a denied claim
- Requesting reasonable accommodations for a disability
- Missing work to serve on a jury, provided that the employee notifies the employer in advance that they have been called for jury duty
- Missing work for court dates and meetings with lawyers related to a domestic violence case in which the employee or the employee’s child is a victim
- Missing up to 40 hours of work per year for meetings at a child’s school, if the employee is the child’s parent, stepparent, or legal guardian
- Reporting an employer who engages in unfair immigration practices, including but not limited to misuse of the federal E-verify system
- Filing a complaint about discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, disability, or any other legally protected characteristic
- Taking a leave of absence pursuant to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Participating in an investigation into a discrimination complaint against your employer filed by another employee
Not All Adverse Actions Count as Retaliation
If your employer terminates your job or takes adverse action against you after you exercise one of your legal rights, you have the right to file a complaint against your employer for retaliation. Your employer also has the right to present their side of the story before a court or regulatory body decides whether to take disciplinary action against your employer. It is a good idea to consult the San Diego employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP before you file any formal notices or complaints. If your employer retaliated against you for simply exercising your legal rights, things can get even uglier if you fight back against your employer’s retaliation.
There are two sides to every legal dispute, so if you allege that your employer’s actions constitute retaliation, your employer also has a chance to show that they took the adverse action against you for a reason other than the fact that you engaged in a protected action. For example, they can show that you consistently performed poorly at your job or that clients, coworkers, or beneficiaries of your employer’s services (such as students in a school or patients in an assisted living facility) justifiably complained about your conduct. In other words, you may be in for a fight in which your employer tries to drag your name through the mud and ruin your personal and professional reputation. A San Diego employment lawyer can help you prepare for this fight and win it.
Can You Sue Your Employer for Retaliation?
The civil courts are available for individuals and companies to resolve disputes about all kinds of matters, but with employment discrimination, including retaliation, there are some preliminary steps before you can sue. If the retaliation was in response to your expressing concerns to your supervisor or your employer’s human resources department, then you should file a preliminary notice of complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You cannot sue your employer for discrimination-related retaliation until the EEOC conducts its own investigation and gives you written authorization to sue. Without this authorization, the court will not accept your lawsuit. The San Diego employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can walk you through the entire process.
Contact a California Employment Lawyer About Employer Retaliation
California labor laws grant many protections for workers to ensure that they receive fair treatment and fair compensation in the workplace. An employment lawyer can help you stand up for your rights and speak out against workplace retaliation by your employer. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in San Diego, Illinois to set up a consultation.