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

Retaliation is a silent plague that often simmers beneath the surface of many workplaces. While California is famed for its progressive employee rights, retaliation remains a subtle yet pervasive issue. 

According to Calmatters, retaliation claims awaiting investigation grew five times between 2018 and 2021 (number of claims 3,378). By April 2023, the backlog grew to 4,878 cases, indicating California employees still experience workplace retaliation.

With the number of claims filed, it is clear that the fear of this workplace mistreatment is increasingly justified, as most employees are unaware of their rights.

In this article, we will tell you what retaliation is, the California laws that prohibit it, and how you can report it with the help of an employment lawyer.

What Constitutes Workplace Retaliation?

The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) says retaliation occurs when an employer punishes employees or job applicants for practicing their workplace rights. It can be any form of misconduct that could lead to a number of negative job actions- such as firing, demotion, reduction in pay, as well as harassment.

Not all forms of retaliation are evident, sometimes, employers take subtle actions to confuse the affected employees so they do not know whether they are being retaliated against or not.

State and federal law says any unethical activity that occurs as a result of the worker practicing their rights could qualify as retaliation, and the employer may be punished for it.

Some employee activities that may lead to workplace retaliation include the following:

  • Refusing to follow the employer’s orders would result in illegal activities.
  • Filing a complaint against some workplace issues or being a witness in an EEOC claim.
  • Resisting sexual advances or protecting others from this misbehavior.
  • Requesting for a leave or reasonable accommodations under FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act).
  • Discussing salary-related information with the managers or other employees.
  • Opposing workplace discrimination, resisting sexual advances, or sexual harassment.
  • Participating in investigations such as answering questions during an alleged wage and hour claim against the employer.

As a reasonable employee, you are not entitled to face consequences for following any of these activities or more that fall under your rights as an employee in California. If you have been subject to retaliation, don’t wait, and call our employment law attorneys at 310-929-2190.

👉 Also read: Top 8 Signs of Retaliation in the Workplace

The Adverse Effects of Retaliation on Employees 

The after-effects of retaliation are not just limited to one’s professional life; they often permeate personal realms as well. It is important for every employee to know how this misconduct can affect them and in how many ways.

Psychological and Emotional Impact

Retaliation, while often subtle, can leave lasting psychological scars. Employees facing retaliation might grapple with chronic stress and anxiety, constantly fearing further reprisals.

Over time, this unrelenting pressure can erode an individual’s self-esteem, making them doubt their worth and capabilities. Having faced betrayal in what is supposed to be a safe and professional environment, the reasonable person may find it challenging to trust colleagues or even future employers.

Professional Ramifications

The professional toll of retaliation is multifaceted. Employees may find themselves overlooked for promotions or subjected to unfair evaluations, leading to career stagnation. Their enthusiasm and dedication might wane, translating to reduced productivity – a natural outcome when one feels undervalued or targeted.

Health Consequences

The emotional turmoil stemming from retaliation does not leave physical health untouched. From recurring headaches and gastrointestinal issues to more severe conditions like cardiovascular diseases, employees may experience several health issues when their mental state is affected by retaliation. 

Affect on Personal and Financial Life 

The stress caused due to workplace retaliation can strain personal relationships, causing an individual to become more withdrawn, irritable, or distant from loved ones. Besides this, financial instability might emerge if retaliation leads to reduced pay or job loss, disrupting an employee’s quality of life.

Employer retaliation is one of the worst things someone can experience. Remember, there are laws to protect you from such kind of behavior, and you do not have to adjust to the retaliatory behavior of your employer. Inform a reliable labor law expert about your situation, and discuss your legal options. 

The California Employment Laws that Prohibit Workplace Retaliation 

California is among the top U.S. states with strict and multiple retaliation laws. Knowing about these labor laws helps you identify the retaliatory actions and act quickly before the misconduct becomes severe. Below, we have explained some important acts and labor codes that govern workplace retaliation. 

Labor Code Section 1102.5

Often referred to as the “Whistleblower Protection Act,” this section is one of the most comprehensive anti-retaliation statutes in the state. It forbids employers from making, adopting, or enforcing any rule or policy that prevents employees from whistleblowing

Additionally, employers cannot retaliate against employees for disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency when they believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal laws. 

Labor Code Section 98.6

California’s Labor Code Section 98.6 is pivotal in safeguarding the rights of employees, especially those who choose to stand up against wage-related violations or other infringements of their labor rights. Employers are prohibited from discharging, formally penalizing, or otherwise discriminating against any employee because the individual:

  • Has filed or made known their intention to file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) due to believed violations in the workplace.
  • Has initiated any form of action related to their rights, be it directly or by aiding another employee to do so.
  • Has testified, provided information, or been called to testify in any investigation, inquiry, or hearing related to rights protected under the Labor Code.

Labor Code Section 230(a)

Section 230(a) provides crucial protections for employees needing time off for specified personal responsibilities and civil obligations. Furthermore, employers cannot discharge or, in any manner, retaliate against employees who are required to serve as jurors.

💡 Note 

For an employee to be protected under this section, they must provide their employer with reasonable notice that they have been summoned to appear for jury duty.

Labor Code Section 230(c)

Employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking get special protection under section 230(c). The provision underscores California’s commitment to supporting and protecting victims by ensuring they don’t face job repercussions for seeking help or taking necessary precautions in the face of such situations.

Labor Code Section 230.8

Under this section, guardians, grandparents, or individuals who stand in loco parentis to a child shall get time off from work for certain school or childcare-related activities (up to 40 hours a year and not more than 8 hours a month). Employers cannot terminate or retaliate in any manner against such employees. (No 8-hour restriction for school emergencies).

Labor Code Section 232.5

Labor Code Section 232.5 addresses a significant aspect of workplace transparency and equity: the right of employees to discuss their wages. It ensures employees can openly discuss their compensation without fear of retaliation, promoting a more transparent and equal work environment. The section 232.5 prohibits employers from:

  • Implementing rules, regulations, or policies that prevent employees from disclosing the amount of their wages.
  • Requiring employees to sign a waiver or other document that denies them the right to disclose the amount of their wages.
  • Discharging, formally disciplining, or otherwise discriminating against an employee for disclosing the amount of their wages.

Labor Code Section 233

Often referred to as the “Kin Care” law, this section mandates that employers who provide paid sick leave to their workers must allow them to use a portion of that leave not just for their health conditions but also to attend to the illness of a family member.

Employers cannot take any retaliatory action against an employee for using or attempting to exercise their right to use the available sick leaves.  

There are numerous California Labor Code sections such as the Fair Labor Standards Act that encourage employees to raise their voices against the unethical conduct by their employer. If you don’t have the time to understand the complex employment laws, it is wise to have a lawyer by your side to protect your rights. 

Reporting Retaliation in California: How to Establish Your Claim

The California employment statutes make it clear what amounts to retaliation. However, it can be challenging to show that retaliation has occurred and affected your employment in one way or the other. To establish your claim, you need to prove the following:

  • You participated in a protected activity.
  • The participation leads to an adverse employment action from your employer.
  • The protected activity was a considerable reason for the occurrence of the adverse action.
  • You suffered direct damages, or the employment action caused you harm indirectly (subtle retaliation).

Proving that you have faced retaliation is one of the most arduous things, especially in an at-will state like California. Before contacting the labor commissioner or a government agency to file your complaint, ensure you have ample evidence to prove your charges. 

The Role of an Employment Attorney in Your Retaliation Claim 

If you believe you have been retaliated against, it is essential to seek legal guidance. An employment attorney like Hershey Law can ensure you are adequately protected and fairly represented when proceeding with your retaliation claim. Here is how a lawyer can ease the overwhelming process of establishing a claim and proving it:

Initial Consultation and Case Evaluation

At the onset of your legal journey, our employment attorney listens to your account of events and evaluates the validity of your claims. They will guage whether the actions you faced fall under legal definitions of retaliation and might also identify other potential claims, such as wrongful termination.

Gathering Evidence

A crucial phase in building your case, the attorney assists in collecting essential documents like employment contracts, employee handbook, performance reviews, and relevant emails. The legal professionals might also interview your coworkers or others who can vouch for your claims.

Legal Counsel and Guidance

Once your case’s foundation is set, our attorneys will elucidate your rights under state and federal laws, ensuring you are aware of your legal standing. We also outline potential courses of action, whether that is filing a complaint, entering negotiations, or proceeding to court.

Negotiations and Mediation

Many cases find resolution outside of court. The lawyers we assign for your case will represent your interests in settlement discussions, aiming to secure an agreeable resolution. If both parties (you and the human resources representative or your employer) consent, mediation facilitated by a neutral third party might be an option.

Formal Complaints and Legal Proceedings

In case negotiations and other out-of-court settlement options do not work out, the lawyers guide you through agency filings, like lodging complaints with the DFEH or EEOC. If litigation ensues, we handle the legal documents and prepare to represent you in court.

Post-Trial Actions

Our role does not end with the court’s verdict. If needed, you will also get advice on potential appeals to ensure that any awarded judgments, like compensation, are enforced and received.

👉 Also read: What Evidence Matters in a Retaliation Lawsuit?

Don’t Let Retaliation Go Unchecked: Book a Free Case Evaluation with Us 

At Hershey Law, our seasoned employment lawyers are ready to advocate for you. We understand that dealing with workplace retaliation can be overwhelmingly stressful, but it does not have to be that way.

As award-winning labor lawyers in California, we stand up for those who stand up against the wrongdoings of their employers. We are fearless lawyers who provide strategic and tactical advocacy to help prove your charges.

Call us at 310-929-2190 to schedule a free consultation and get a glimpse of our outstanding customer service. We operate throughout California, catering to employees from various locations, including Beverly Hills, Burbank, San Bernardino, Ventura, and more.