On behalf of Sullivan Law Group APC posted in blog on Friday, February 2, 2018.
California law protects employees against harassment, discrimination and unlawful retaliation. While employers otherwise have a lot of freedom in employment decisions, these three types of actions form the exception.
The area of illegal actions by employers can get quite complicated. If you feel your employer may be crossing the line into unlawful behavior, speaking with a knowledgeable attorney can give you more information about legal recourse that may be available to you.
Employers can act unfairly without breaking the law
Generally, the law does not forbid your employer from acting unfairly or behaving unpleasantly (up to a certain limit). Your boss may choose to ignore your contributions, speak rudely or even fire you without having to justify his or her actions. However, when the same actions occur as a pattern of retaliation, your boss may be violating the law.
Employers must not punish for protected acts
A negative action may constitute retaliation when your employer takes it specifically to get back at you for exercising your legal rights. Common things employees do that often trigger retaliation include demanding compliance with wage laws, reporting unsafe workplace conditions, filing a discrimination complaint or acting as a witness in a government investigation of the employer.
Employers may retaliate without termination
Negative action in response to a protected action does not have to mean termination. Your employer may demote you, deny training opportunities, reduce your wages or increase your workload. Even making a point of telling future potential employers about complaints can be considered retaliatory action.
Employers may plan ahead to disguise retaliation
In a retaliation case, you face the challenge of showing the negative action is connected to your earlier legally-protected activity. Employers often argue that any demotion or salary cut came as a result of an employee’s poor performance.
Thus, your employer may try to build the groundwork for such a claim by subjecting you to increased scrutiny or even manufacturing reasons to discipline you. You may find yourself formally written up for doing something your boss usually never even notices when other employees do it.
Even if, initially, the retaliation takes the form of minor steps, you should be alert to the possibility of more serious action in the future. It is best to contact an attorney promptly so that you can protect yourself more effectively.