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What Is Unlawful Retaliation at Work?

November 4, 2021
By Haeggquist & Eck
A women suffering from workplace retaliation

Unlawful retaliation at work is the denial of a job benefit or termination in response to an employee reporting discriminatory behavior or sexual harassment. Under both federal and California law, employers cannot base hiring and firing decisions on the membership of an employee or prospective employee in a protected class.

When an employee has experienced discrimination and they complain, they have legal protections against retaliation. Read on to learn more about unlawful retaliation at work and how an employment attorney can help you collect the damages that you deserve.

Federal Law Protects Employees from Discrimination

The federal government of the United States protects you from hiring or firing discriminatory decisions. Employment discrimination is determined by whether or not an employer unfairly treated an employee based on their membership in a protected class.

Employers cannot base employment decisions on the person’s age, gender, sex, disability, family history, color, race, or genetic information. You have protections from discrimination based on any of these characteristics, and if you believe you might have experienced such discrimination, you have the right to make a report.

Employers Cannot Terminate an Employee for Filing a Complaint Concerning Discrimination

Retaliation for reporting discrimination is unlawful. California protects its citizens from discrimination due to membership in a protected status and provides a reporting method to issue related complaints. Firing an employee in retaliation for making such a complaint is illegal.

Further understanding the protected class and statuses that have coverage under the law, the federal government and California can help identify whether or not you have a case. If you have a claim, the agency can issue you authorization to sue, and your attorney can file a lawsuit against the company.

Unlawful retaliation is not necessarily always a termination decision, but it can also be the denial of benefits or promotions on the job. If you believe you lost a promotion or particular benefits or opportunities because you reported workplace discrimination, you may pursue compensation for your lost value. Discussing the details with an experienced California employment attorney will help determine the scope of your case and ensure that you collect the most damages possible in any related settlements.

Discrimination Based on Sex Provides Expansive Employee Protections

Under federal law, employers are not allowed to make employment decisions based upon the sex of the employee. Sex in this context is an expansive term that covers not only the gender of the individual but also pregnancy status, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

When an employer has made a hiring or firing decision based upon one’s gender identification, sexual orientation, or pregnancy, you may be entitled to damages, which we can seek by filing a complaint with your employer and any relevant government agencies. If you are terminated or denied opportunities due to your reporting discrimination, you have experienced unlawful retaliation

Unlawful retaliation for reporting discrimination is illegal. Both the federal government and California support the reporting of discrimination and the enforcement of actions against those who unlawfully discriminate. Reaching out to a local employment attorney to discuss the facts and circumstances of your situation will determine whether you have a case for wrongful discrimination and if so, to make the most of your potential compensation.

Age Discrimination Protections Begin at 40

Employers cannot base hiring or firing decisions on age if they fall under the designation of a protected employee based upon their age. Federal equal protection laws take effect at forty years old. Employers cannot base hiring or firing decisions based upon an individual being aged forty or older.

Organizations can have minimum age requirements for employment and courts have upheld and age minimums for governmental positions. For example, states or employers can set a minimum age to begin a particular position, and in terms of government, the age minimum of thirty-five to serve a president is an example of an age-based employment decision that falls outside of the prohibition of not discriminating based upon being aged forty or older.

If you believe your employer terminated you because you complained about not being promoted due to your age or not receiving some other benefit or job accolade, you may seek damages. You have the right to file discrimination complaints, and employers cannot deny you benefits or terminate you based on discrimination complaints.

California Protects Certain Classes of Employees From Discrimination

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) applies to public and private employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies.

Under the FEHA, employers of five or more employees cannot discriminate against job applicants or employees because of a protected category or retaliate against a prospective employee or employee based on their asserted legal rights. FEHA prohibits the harassment of an employee based upon any protected category, and further, must also provide sexual harassment training to all supervisory and non-supervisory employees,

The employee has protections in California from the discriminatory practices of employers if the employer has five or more employees. In that case, the employee should contact an experienced employment attorney who understands how federal and state laws need to either provide for or fight against termination.