Employers with 5 or more employees in California are held accountable for discrimination in the workplace on the basis of a list of protected characteristics that include race, sex, age, religion, medical condition, or military status.
Employees who have experienced unfair treatment based on a protected characteristic have the right to alert their employer to the situation. The employer is then legally obligated to make the discrimination stop without penalizing the employee for reporting it.
What can often happen is that when an employer is put on the spot with accusations of discrimination, they take some negative action against the reporting employee. When employers retaliate against employees who report illegal conduct, the law gives employees the right to recover against their employers.
At Licata & Yeremenko, A Professional Law Corporation, we know that employers may try to discourage employees from exercising their rights by taking or threatening to take negative action against them. Our Southern California-based employer retaliation attorneys give employees a voice and protect their rights to be free of workplace discrimination.
When an employee reports illegal conduct, any of the following responses by an employer are illegal forms of retaliation:
1. Wrongful Termination
In many cases, employers can terminate employees for any reason. But when an employee reports that her boss has been making unwanted comments of a sexual nature and the employee is fired a week later, it suggests a wrongful termination may have occurred. An employee who is otherwise in good standing and gets fired after reporting illegal conduct very likely has been wrongfully terminated.
2. Demotion or Change in Work Responsibilities
Since employers know that discrimination in the workplace is not to be tolerated, retaliation is rarely blatantly obvious. However, when an employer changes the number of hours an employee works or changes work responsibilities so that an employee is required to perform less favorable tasks, it can be retaliation if there are no legitimate, work-related reasons for the changes.
3. Exclusion from Typical Workplace Activities
Not everyone in the workplace is going to necessarily like everyone else. There is no protected right, for example, to be included in a particular lunch group that goes out together every Friday. But when an employee is excluded from activities that all employees are usually included in such as meetings and workshops, such exclusion is evidence of employer retaliation.
4. Passover for Promotion or Raise
Employers are not allowed to punish employees for reporting illegal activity in the workplace by withholding advancement opportunities or pay increases that the employees are otherwise qualified and eligible to receive. However, it can be tricky to prove an employer’s motivations were retaliatory when the employer can offer legitimate alternative reasons for their decisions.
Harassment can be any unwelcome conduct that begins as a result of an employee exercising their rights to be free of workplace discrimination. Harassment might be threatening, mocking, or insulting comments. It might be the receipt of offensive messages or images. It could be being singled out for unfair treatment that other employees don’t receive.
6. Negative Performance Review
When an employee who has had a solid performance history is given a negative performance evaluation after reporting a workplace violation, it is evidence of employer retaliation in the event that the employer does not have credible explanations for the negative review.
7. Increased Supervision/Micromanagement
An employee might find their work activities and time management being more closely scrutinized by their employer after reporting illegal activity. For example, the employee’s work may be unfairly criticized, or they may be reprimanded for not adhering to the letter of the employer’s policies that have only been loosely enforced in the past.
To prove employer retaliation, an employee must be able to show that an employer’s negative actions were taken as a result of the employee exercising a protected right. Employers rarely admit to doing this, so the proof must come from all of the circumstances surrounding the situation.
The California-based employer retaliation lawyers at Licata & Yeremenko, A Professional Law Corporation understand that employers can go to great lengths to try and justify retaliation as a legitimate business decision. We know how to expose the truth and hold employers accountable for their illegal behavior. Schedule a free evaluation of your employer retaliation claim by calling our office at 818-783-5757 or contacting us here.