Is Workplace Retaliation Illegal in California?

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers from retaliating against someone for opposing practices that the FEHA has deemed unlawful. These acts include harassment and discrimination as well as retaliation for testifying on behalf of another’s rights under FEHA. FEHA’s protections cover business and labor organizations as well as business partners and subcontractors, making it illegal for any of these individuals to engage in retaliation.

Additionally, the Labor Code and other laws in California prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for speaking up against illegal conduct, or even conduct the employee in good faith believes is illegal. Additionally, employees cannot be retaliated against for things like: (1) taking family leave; (2) voting; (3) doing jury duty; or (4) other lawful out-of-work activity that does not affect their work.

What is Workplace Retaliation?

In California Law, workplace retaliation refers to the career-damaging actions an employer may take in punishing an employee who complains about, reports or aides in the investigation of the neglect of employee rights or illegal activity. Retaliation consists of firing, demoting, cutting the pay or hours, or otherwise implementing an “adverse employment action” against an employee.

California workplace retaliation laws protect you when reporting or participating in an investigation involving:

  • Workplace harassment
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Workplace discrimination
  • Unpaid wages and unpaid overtime
  • Workplace hazards or injuries in the workplace
  • Involvement in illegal activity and violation of an employee rights

Examples of Workplace Retaliation

Workplace retaliation can manifest itself as a variety of detrimental actions that range in severity. Some examples of workplace retaliation include:

  • Being demoted
  • Being given an unsatisfactory job reference
  • Being inconveniently relocated
  • Being switched to a less desirable shift
  • Wrongful termination

Employee Protections Under California Workplace Retaliation Laws

If you are privy to workplace harassment or discrimination as an employee in the State of California, you know you are protected under state law from retaliation. To be protected through FEHA laws, and individual must have fulfilled the following requirements:

  1. Filed a charge with or sought advice from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)
  2. Testified, assisted, or participated in DFEH proceedings
  3. “Opposed” acts prohibited by FEHA. This does not mean silent opposition, but must be manifested in the following ways: 
    1. Reporting or complaining about harassment or discrimination to supervisors or co-workers
    2. Testifying as a witness in a co-worker’s FEHA case
    3. Giving help to a victim of harassment or discrimination

A complaint filed by an employee in the State of California is protected so long as the person has reasonable belief that the conduct constitutes as unlawful harassment or discrimination. The complaint need not be actually illegal.

Additionally, the California Whistleblower Act protects the workplace rights of employees who accuse their employer of committing illegal activities, making it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee who may be involved in whistleblower claims. The California Whistleblower Act also prohibits the enforcement of rules or regulations that prevent employees from working with government or police agencies if the employee has reasonable cause to disclose a law violation.

Examples of Employer Retaliation During COVID-19

During COVID-19, you have the right to report if your workplace is unsafe or not abiding by OSHA standards during the pandemic. OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the claimant provisions of more than 20 statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting a variety of workplace violations.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees, contractors, and temporary workers regarding workplace safety during COVID-19; however, as the number of whistleblower cases increase, so are the workplace retaliation lawsuits. The US Department of Labor had recently issued a reminder to employers stating that it is indeed illegal to retaliate against workers who report unsafe conditions. If you choose to become a whistleblower at your workplace in regard to COVID-19, federal and state laws protect you from retaliation.

During the pandemic, many reports from whistleblowers have dealt with breaches of state and federal industry guidance from their employer’s workplace policies. State policies require safety measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, such as face coverings in public spaces, physical distance measures, frequent hand washing and disinfection. If your employer was negligent of the policies set in place by Cal/Osha, you have the right to report the company to OSHA out of concern for your safety and that of others. Once you do so, your employer does not have the right to retaliate against you in the form of demotion, reduction in pay or hours, discrimination, harassment, or termination.

Know Your Rights | Call Kyle Todd, P.C. | Employment Lawyer in California

If you feel you are experiencing acts of workplace retaliation or have in the past, reach out to Kyle Todd, P.C. as soon as possible. Issues of retaliation in the workplace are time sensitive. How quickly you react can affect your ability to file a successful workplace retaliation lawsuit in the State of California. You can trust Kyle Todd, P.C. to defend your career and financial future by asserting your California workplace rights if you have experienced wrongful retaliation or termination from your employer. Contact Kyle Todd, P.C. today, and they will fight for your rights.