What is Workplace Retaliation?

California is an at-will employment state.  This means that you can be terminated from your employment for no reason at all, unless you have a written contract with your employer.  Likewise, an employee can quit his or her employment at any time, without giving any notice.

Although California is an at-will state, this does not mean that employer is permitted to terminate an employee for any reason.  In this blog post, I will discuss when an employer’s termination or other negative action against an employee can be classified as a workplace retaliation.

Under California law, an employee has certain protections against termination or other adverse employment actions in an at-will employment arrangement.  In particular, an employer is forbidden from terminating or taking a negative action against an employee who commits one of the following acts:

  • Reports workplace harassment, such as sexual harassment, racial harassment
  • Reports  workplace discrimination
  • Reports unpaid wages and unpaid overtime
  • Participates in a lawsuit against his or her employer
  • Reports workplace hazards or injuries
  • Reports an employer’s illegal activities and violations of employee rights to a governmental agency

It is obvious the reason why an employer cannot terminate or reprimand an employee for reporting improper and/or illegal activities occurring in the workplace.   The legislature wanted to provide employees with protections against retribution for reporting an employer’s misconduct and/or that of its employees.  By providing employees with this protection, it fosters a safe workplace environment free of harassment and discrimination due to the fact that an employee can report misconduct without fear of retribution.

Naturally, in the real world, things are not so perfect. Instead, it is very common for an employee to suffer retribution for reporting improper or illegal activities committed by an employer and/or its employees.  Typically, in an employment lawsuit premised on the grounds that the employee was retaliated against for disclosing improper or illegal acts, the employee will suffer an “adverse employment action” within a relatively close proximity to when the employee disclosed the illegal or improper activity to Human Resources or a governmental agency.

Actions that could be considered retaliatory in an employment setting are as follows:

  • Being terminated.
  • Being written up for trivial matters after having a record of high performance reviews.
  • Being demoted.
  • A change in work duties or a change in work schedule in order to make it more difficult for the employee to perform his or her job.
  • Being passed over for promotions.

These types of actions taken against an employee for reporting improper and/or illegal activities would give rise to a claim for workplace retaliation.

If you have suffered workplace retaliation resulting from the reporting of an improper and/or illegal activity by your employer, speak to an attorney at The Rinka Law Firm, PC at 310-556-9653 to discuss your case.  We are here to help.

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