Preventing Workplace Retaliation: Best Practices for Employers and Employees

Imagine being afraid to speak up at work for fear of losing your job, facing demotion, or being isolated by your colleagues. Unfortunately, this is not merely a hypothetical scenario for many employees who have faced workplace retaliation. 

According to Cal Matters, in California, the total number of retaliation claims awaiting investigation grew more than five-fold between 2018 and 2021, reaching an estimated 3,378 cases. By April 2023, the backlog had grown to 4,878 claims. 

What happens when the fear of retaliation overshadows the need for honesty in the workplace? How can employers and employees collaborate to dismantle this barrier to a healthy work environment? In this article, we will explore these pressing questions while focusing on the pervasive issue of workplace retaliation.

What is Considered Workplace Retaliation?

Retaliation occurs when an employer takes adverse (illegal) action against an employee for engaging in legally protected activity. For example, if an employee complains about workplace harassment to HR (internally) or DFEH (externally) and faces demotion or other negative consequences by the employer, it qualifies as retaliation.

In some instances, retaliation may be fueled by a personal desire for revenge or hatred. A reasonable employee may experience retaliation when he/she:

  • Reports an unethical or illegal conduct.
  • Refuses to participate or be a part of unethical activities in the workplace.
  • Complaints about discrimination or harassment.
  • Whistleblows in a complaint by filing a complaint or becoming evidence in a case.
  • Engages in union activities such as picketing.

Regardless of the form, workplace retaliation is illegal, and you have the right to file a complaint against your employer. If you are a victim of retaliation, get in touch with our workplace retaliation lawyer in Los Angeles. We take the necessary steps to protect your rights., and ensure you receive fair compensation for the damages. 

👉 Also read: When Retaliation Occurs, Know Your Rights: Find an Employment Law Firm To Guide You

Anti-retaliation Laws in California Every Employee Should Know

The Golden State is home to multiple robust anti-retaliation employment laws that offer protection to employees. Knowing about state and federal law will help you take the right steps if your employer retaliates against you.

California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

FEHA is one of California’s primary laws governing workplace discrimination and retaliation. It prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who file a complaint, testify, or assist in any proceeding under the act against employment harassment or discrimination, or other prohibited practices.

California Labor Code Section 1102.5 

Also known as the Whistleblower Protection Act, this statute protects employees who report violations of state or federal laws by their employer to a government or law enforcement agency. It prohibits retaliation against employees for whistleblowing activities.

California Family Rights Act

CFRA is similar to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and prohibits retaliation against employees who take leave for specified family and medical reasons.

California Occupational Safety and Health Act 

The Cal/OSHA Act includes provisions that protect workers from retaliation for reporting safety violations or workplace hazards. For example, if an employee with a disability complains about a lack of reasonable accommodations, and the employer retaliates against them.

Each of these laws serves to protect employees in various situations where they might be vulnerable to retaliation by their employers. At Hershey Law, our lawyers are specialists in retaliation laws and fight passionately to defend your rights. 

How to Handle Workplace Retaliation?

Despite the strict laws, the cases of retaliation in California are on the rise. The biggest reason is that most workers are unaware of how to handle such an adverse employment action. Here’s what to do if your employer has taken an illegal action against you because of you engaging in a legal activity.

Review Company Policies and Your Employment Contract

Look into your company’s employee handbook or any relevant policies regarding retaliation and dispute resolution policies. Understanding these can provide insight into your rights and the procedures your employer should follow.

Report the Retaliation

Follow your company’s procedures for reporting retaliation. It is typically through your human resources (HR) department. When reporting, be factual and provide any evidence you have. It is essential to report internally as a first step, as this can sometimes resolve the issue and is often required for legal claims.

Appoint an Employment Lawyer 

If the situation is not resolved internally, or if you face significant adverse actions like termination, demotion, or sexual harassment, it is wise to consult a workplace retaliation attorney. Look for an experienced employment lawyer specializing in employment law or workplace retaliation. They can advise you on your rights, the strength of your case, and potential next steps.

File a Complaint with Government Agencies

If appropriate, your lawyer may advise filing a complaint with government agencies such as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to help prove the claim and secure compensation.

Take Care of Your Well-being

Facing employer retaliation can be emotionally taxing. Make sure to take care of your mental and emotional health such as by speaking with a counselor or therapist or joining a support group.

Stay Professional

Throughout the process, continue to perform your job duties to the best of your ability and maintain professionalism. It is important both for your retaliation claim and your long-term career. 

How to Prevent Workplace Retaliation: Tips for Employees and Employers 

Preventing retaliation in the workplace is crucial for maintaining a positive and productive work environment. However, it is only possible when the employee and the employer work together towards a solution. Here are some tips that both employees and employers can follow to foster a healthy workplace culture.

For Employees

Know Your Rights

Familiarize yourself with the federal and state laws and company policies regarding workplace retaliation. Understanding what constitutes retaliation and your legal protections can empower you to speak up when necessary.

Document Everything

If you engage in a protected activity (like filing a complaint), keeping detailed records will help you in proving workplace retaliation. Document dates, times, who was involved, and what was said or done. It can be invaluable if you need to demonstrate a link between your actions and any adverse treatment you receive.

Communicate Concerns Clearly

If you feel you are being retaliated against, address it directly with your supervisor or HR department. Be clear, concise, and professional in your communication.

Seek Support

Utilize available resources such as HR departments, employee assistance programs, or even external counseling services if you are stressed or uncertain about how to proceed.

Be Proactive in Resolving Conflicts

If you are involved in a workplace dispute or have made a complaint, be proactive in seeking a resolution. It doesn’t mean backing down on important issues but working constructively towards a solution.

For Employers

Establish Clear Policies

Develop and enforce clear anti-retaliation policies. Ensure these policies are well-communicated and understood by all employees, especially management and HR personnel.

Train Managers and Supervisors

Regularly train management and supervisory staff on how to identify and prevent retaliation. They should understand the legal ramifications and the impact on workplace culture.

Encourage Open Communication

Create an environment where employees feel safe to voice their concerns, report problems, or participate in investigations without fear of retaliation.

Promptly Address Complaints

Take all complaints seriously and investigate them promptly and thoroughly. Ensure that investigations are fair, unbiased, and confidential.

Provide Support and Mediation

Offer support and, where appropriate, mediation services to resolve conflicts that may arise after a protected activity.

Fight Back Against Workplace Injustice: Contact Our Retaliation Lawyers in Los Angeles

Have you experienced unfair treatment at your workplace after standing up for what’s right? Do not let workplace retaliation undermine your career and overall health. 

In Los Angeles, our team of dedicated and experienced retaliation lawyers is here to stand with you. We understand how challenging and isolating it can feel to be targeted for simply exercising your rights. 

That is why we are committed to providing you with the robust legal support and guidance you need to navigate through these complex issues.

Let’s work together to turn your experience into a powerful stand for justice and fairness in the workplace. Call us at 310-929-2190 to schedule a free case consultation. We charge no fee, until we win the case for you.