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Employment Retaliation Claims in California

The common issues that plague a lot of companies in California involve employees and/or applicants being subjected to discrimination and/or harassment in any aspect of employment. Basically, any form of discrimination or harassment on account of one’s protected characteristic—race, color, age, sex, and others—are prohibited under the prevailing state and federal laws. However, there is also another issue in employment that is likewise prohibited by these laws but not a lot of people are fully aware of it. The same laws also prohibit any conduct that is retaliatory in nature; that is, employers covered by these laws cannot subject them to any adverse employment action as punishment for complaining about discrimination and/or harassment or doing something that is legally protected.

Basically, retaliation happens when an employee was punished by his or her employer for engaging in a protected activity. It can be in the form of any adverse employment action that could be either obvious or subtle for the employee involved. Typical actions of an employer that is in response with the employee’s engagement in a protected activity include termination, demotion, suspension, deduction of salaries and/or benefits, and reassignment of job or shift.

One typical example of retaliation in the California workplace involves an employee getting terminated or subjected to any other negative job action because he or she complained with his or her about a boss, supervisor, or manager’s discriminatory and/or harassing conduct he or she was experiencing. Retaliation may also occur if the employee was punished for serving jury duty, exercising his or her right to vote, or for performing an employee right such as filing leaves of absences due to a medical condition, disability or family matter and filing workers’ compensation due to a work-related injury.

Apart from these instances, there are also individuals in the workplace who are known as “whistleblowers” who put their jobs on the line, facing potential retaliation from their employers. As it is, they are those who fearlessly reported their employers’ engagement in an illegal activity with an appropriate employment or law enforcement agency. Examples of illegal conduct include perjury, insurance or tax fraud, and other civil or criminal offenses. They are also those who report certain violations with regards to workplace safety and other issues. The federal and California employment laws, fortunately, provide these employees guaranteed protections against any form of retaliatory conduct.

Meanwhile, an employee who may be suspecting retaliation, especially after complaining about a discriminatory or harassing conduct in the workplace, may need to consult with his or her immediate superior or ask his or her company’s human resource representative regarding for the adverse employment action/s. While it is the responsibility of the employer to address the situation and make the necessary corrections to the problem at hand, it is also possible that the employer may not do something about it. If there is failure in communication and it is obvious that he or she is being retaliated against, then he or she may need to assert his or her rights.

To help build a case of retaliation against the employer, the affected employee may establish a retaliation claim with the help of the appropriate agency such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). He or she may instead consult with an attorney who specializes in handling retaliation claims in California. That way, he or she may be given expert advice on how to establish a concrete claim that would prove that the employer is truly broke the law due to employment retaliation.

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