At work, you want to feel as safe as you can in your work environment. You don’t want to feel threatened by your employer because you did the right thing. Unfortunately, that’s how many employers choose to treat their workers.
Many workers will think of ways to retaliate against their workers when they file complaints against them. When they do so, they’re violating the law. If you feel you’ve been the victim of unlawful retaliation at work, immediately find out about your legal rights from a San Diego retaliation lawyer.
What is retaliation?
Retaliation is the action that employers take to punish employees for making complaints against them. As an employee, you have the right to exercise your whistleblower rights.
Whistleblower rights are the rights you have to report your employer’s illegal actions. These illegal actions include actions that violate your federal and state employee rights. These rights include the right not to be discriminated against, sexually harassed, or shorted on your pay.
When employers take adverse actions against you after you’ve filed a complaint, those are retaliation actions.
Adverse actions of employers
Adverse actions are the actions that employers take shortly after you’ve reported them. These actions include termination, reducing your salary, altering your work schedule, and denying you a promotion.
Common signs of retaliation
While some actions might not be clearly retaliative, there are some social cues you can pick up on that can indicate retaliation. One of those cues involves being excluded or left out. You might not receive invitations to important meetings or get work opportunities as you normally should.
If your managers begin to give you the silent treatment, for example, that is an example of retaliation. Another example is experiencing bullying or harassment after you exercise your rights. If you experience attitude changes toward you after reporting unlawful conduct, you are likely experiencing retaliation.
Suppose you filed a complaint against a popular supervisor for making sexist or racist remarks against you, and your coworkers responded by starting rumors about you. That can be an example of retaliation.
Proving retaliation on the part of your employer
How can you prove that you suffered from retaliation?
You must prove your employer’s actions through three factors:
- It happened after you participated in a protected activity
- You suffered a negative workplace consequence because of the action
- Your protected activity caused your employer’s action
Your protected activity is any activity that falls under your rights as an employee. This includes speaking out against discrimination, sexual harassment, or your employer’s illegal conduct.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim and engaging in certain political activities are protected. When your employer has committed action against you after you have engaged in your protected activity, that is an example of retaliation.
Your rights as an employee
Your employee rights stem from several federal and state laws.
For federal legislation, the following Acts are responsible for establishing your employee rights:
- Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
- Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- Fair Labor Standards Act
- Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA)
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Discrimination in the workplace
Discrimination in the workplace is illegal under FEHA and Title VII, which prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, national origin, and religion.
You have the right to file a discrimination complaint when your employer overlooks you for a promotion because of your race. When your employer retaliates against you for filing a discrimination complaint, that’s another complaint that you can file against your employer.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also makes sexual harassment illegal. Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual activity within the workplace. It is an illegal action that happens in every occupation.
Sexual harassment can be verbal and nonverbal. It can include explicit hand gestures and email messages. If your employer demotes or terminates you for resisting their sexual advances, that is unlawul retaliation.
Your whistleblower rights
The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) establishes your whistleblower rights. It also protects you while enforcing your rights.
Many people think of large political issues when it comes to whistleblowing. But whistleblowing can cover a range of illegal activities.
When your employer creates a hostile work environment for you, you are exercising whistleblowing rights when you report their behavior. This act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who participate in whistleblowing. That means that any form of retaliation is considered illegal.
Wage and hour rights
The Fair Labor Standards Act is responsible for your mandatory wage and overtime rights.
This act entitles you to fair pay. That means you must receive proper compensation for each hour you’ve worked, including minimum wages and overtime rates as applicable.
It is considered unlawful retaliation when your employer retaliates against you for fighting for your compensation.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that grants employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for medical and family reasons.
It is a federal violation for employers to violate your FMLA rights. Employers can violate your FMLA rights when retaliating against you for taking your leave.
One form of unlawful retaliation is wrongful termination. Although generally employment is “at will,” many employees may not know that some terminations or unlawful. Wrongful termination is when an employer terminates an employee for an illegal reason. If your employer fired you because you complained about being discriminated or sexually harassed at work, that is wrongful termination.
How retaliation affects the workplace
Many negative consequences come with retaliation at work. One of those consequences is employee morale. When an employer goes out of their way to retaliate against you, it not only brings you down.
It can bring your coworkers’ morale down. It’s hard for you and your coworkers to focus on your job when you also have to worry about your employer’s actions.
Employers who retaliate against their employees can be found liable in court or arbitration. If you are the victim of your employer’s retaliation, you can sue them for different damages.
In addition to economic damages, you can sue for emotional distress. If your employer’s actions were very egregious, the jury might also award punitive damages.
Issues with proving retaliation
In order to establish retaliation, you have to show causation. You need to demonstrate a causal connection between the protected activity and your employer’s adverse action against you.
Remedies for retaliation
If your employer retaliates against you, you can seek compensation for lost wages and emotional distress. Your employer might even have to take steps to ensure that retaliation doesn’t happen again.
What to look for in a retaliation case
When determining the success of your retaliation claim, an employment lawyer will look at:
- Evidence that you experienced some form of illegal harassment
- Evidence that you engaged in a protected activity
- Evidence of the adverse action that your employer took against you
- Evidence of the damages that you’ve experienced as a result
How to prevent retaliation in the workplace
There are ways for your employer to avoid retaliation in the workplace. Employers must first know their responsibilities. They must understand that no matter how they feel, they can’t retaliate against you.
Another thing employers need to do is treat all employees fairly. Your employer should also incorporate an open-door policy where you feel comfortable expressing your concerns about anything.
Contact an experienced employment law attorney today
When you have retaliation at work, reach out to an experienced San Diego employment law lawyer today.
See how an attorney can help you obtain the compensation you deserve for your harassment. Contact an experienced employment law attorney to discuss your situation and find out how you can hold your employer responsible for their retaliation.