Under both California and federal anti-discrimination laws, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who makes a discrimination or harassment complaint. For example, if you made a discrimination complaint or assisted with one, it would generally be illegal for your employer to:
- Reprimand you
- Give you an unduly low performance evaluation
- Transfer you to a less desirable position
- Verbally or physically abuse you
- Threaten to report you to the authorities
- Increase scrutiny over you
- Spread false rumors about you
- Treat your family members negatively
- Make your work more difficult, such as by changing your schedule
- Demote you
- Fire you
That said, making a discrimination or harassment complaint doesn’t shield you from unrelated, non-discriminatory discipline or termination, as long as it was not done in retaliation.
Unfortunately, it can be somewhat difficult to prove that an adverse job action was retaliatory. It can come down to your word against your employer’s. If you have a negative job history with previous performance complaints, it can be especially hard to prove retaliation.
What should you do if your employer seems to be retaliating?
Whenever you suspect your rights have been violated, it’s a good idea to talk to an employment law attorney before you take any action. This can reduce the possibility that your employer will retaliate. However, if you suspect retaliation was behind a recent negative job action, it is especially important to hire an attorney.
Employers routinely hire their own lawyers to investigate and find evidence against workers who claim retaliation. You need someone to listen, to answer your questions, and to make your case. For example, your attorney may be able to obtain company policies or evidence of past retaliation by your employer in other cases.
Under California and federal anti-discrimination laws, you have the right to:
- File a discrimination or harassment charge, complaint, investigation or lawsuit
- Be a witness in a charge, complaint, investigation or lawsuit
- Communicate with your supervisor or manager about alleged discrimination
- Answer questions about discrimination or harassment in an employer investigation
- Refuse to follow orders that would lead to discrimination
- Resist sexual advances
- Intervene to protect others
- Request accommodation for a disability or religious practice
- Ask co-workers and managers about salary information in an effort to uncover unequal pay
- Make a worker’s compensation claim
- Take Family and Medical Leave Act/California Family Rights Act leave
- Assert your legal rights in certain other ways
If you take action to protect your rights or those of others, you should be free of unlawful retaliation.
Leigh Law Group represents employees in discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims.