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What is retaliation?

Under California’s at-will employment laws, employers in California are permitted to take adverse action against you in the workplace for any legal reason. However, some employers take adverse action against an employee for discriminatory reasons or because the employee engaged in a protected activity. This is referred to as retaliation and may be a violation of the California Labor Code and/or the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Defining retaliation

Various California employment laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for engaging in the following protected activities:

  • Reporting employer’s alleged criminal actions or safety violations to law enforcement or governmental agency.
  • Refusing to engage in illegal activity.
  • Reporting employer’s alleged violations of law to supervisor.
  • Participating in governmental investigation or hearing relating to employer’s alleged violations of law.
  • Filing complaint relating to discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
  • Requesting workplace accommodations for disability.
  • Taking leave they were entitled to under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

What is an adverse action?

In order for there to be retaliation, your employer must have taken an adverse action against you. Some adverse actions may include:

  • Termination
  • Demotion
  • Denial of raise or promotion
  • Increased workload
  • Negative performance reviews
  • Disciplinary action
  • Denial of training
  • Exclusion from meetings and other team activities

Employers may claim that they had non-retaliatory, non-discriminatory reasons for taking adverse action against you. An attorney specializing in employment law can help you file a retaliation claim against your employer by establishing that any actions taken against you were unlawful and that you are entitled to damages as a result of your employer’s illegal behavior.

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