Rand L. Stephens & Richard Koss

Types of Workplace Retaliation

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California state and federal laws protect California workers against harassment and discrimination in the workplace. These laws also prohibit employers from striking back against employees for exercising their legal rights, such as by terminating them for reporting harassment or discrimination in the workplace. Termination is just one form of workplace retaliation. See below for other types of workplace retaliation, and reach out to a passionate California workplace retaliation lawyer with any questions or for help with an employment-related matter.

Protected activities

Improper workplace retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee in any manner in response to the employee engaging in activities that are protected by state or federal law. Protected activities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Reporting incidents of workplace harassment or discrimination, either internally to managers or HR, or externally to a governmental authority such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • Reporting incidents of unpaid wages and unpaid overtime
  • Reporting workplace hazards
  • Reporting illegal conduct or any other violation of employee rights
  • Refusing to engage in illegal conduct
  • Reporting fraud
  • Filing a wage & hour claim civilly or with a governmental authority such as the California Labor Commissioner
  • Filing a discrimination lawsuit
  • Helping another employee with a discrimination lawsuit or complaint of illegal activity, such as by providing information or testimony
  • Taking protected medical or disability leave

Types of retaliation

Retaliation can take many forms, up to and including termination. Even if an employee was not fired in response to protected activity, however, a retaliation claim may still lie. While it may appear most obvious that retaliation has occurred when an employee is immediately fired after filing a lawsuit alleging discrimination, there are other forms of punishment that employees should watch out for after engaging in a protected activity, and that California employers should avoid committing in response to an employee’s protected behavior.

Some other signs of workplace retaliation include:

  • Demotion
  • Unfair disciplinary action, such as a citation in the employee’s file, suspension from work, or a negative performance review
  • Denial of a promotion
  • Reduction in salary
  • Denial of a bonus or other expected compensation
  • Micromanagement of an employee’s actions shortly after engaging in protected activities
  • Creating a hostile work environment for an employee
  • Giving an employee an undesirable assignment, such as a less desirable shift, an on-location assignment in an inconvenient location, or limiting an employee to unprofitable contracts
  • Giving an unfavorable job reference

To be actionable, unlawful retaliatory actions by the employer must have an adverse effect on the worker’s employment. If an employer engages in any retaliatory conduct such as the above after an employee performs an action protected by state or federal law, the worker may have a claim for retaliation.

If you are a San Francisco employer or an employee needing personal assistance with a claim of workplace retaliation, wrongful termination, or discrimination, contact the Bay Area employment law attorneys Richard Koss and Rand L. Stephens at 650-722-7046 on the San Francisco Peninsula, or 925-757-1700 in the East Bay.

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