The right thing to do when you witness something unlawful or unjust in the workplace is to stop it. Whether you have witnessed theft, harassment, or dangerous code violations, taking action is the necessary next step. But it can also be dangerous. Workplace retaliation is against the law because there is such a high risk that employers will seek to punish any employees who
How Can an Orange County Workplace Retaliation Lawyer Protect You?
Workplace retaliation can be an unpleasant experience, but the retaliation lawyers at Eldessouky Law can help you. A retaliation lawyer can shine a light on both the retaliation and the reasons behind it, and we are prepared to take your employer to trial, if necessary.
This means that your employer will face financial and potentially legal consequences for their actions, and will be under close scrutiny should they try to get away with the initial violation or retaliatory measures again.
To consult with a workplace retaliation lawyer, call our law office or send us an online contact form, and we can begin the conversation.
What Does Workplace Retaliation Look Like?
Workplace retaliation is any action by an employer designed to deny their employee earned benefits and recognition in response to engaging in a retaliation-protected activity. If your employer does anything designed to punish you for taking lawful and reasonably concerned actions in response to misconduct in the workplace, it may be considered retaliation. Of course, a few examples can help you to know retaliation when you see it, whether it is directed at you or someone else in your workplace.
Unjustified Low-Performance Reviews
If your manager suddenly begins dispensing low ratings in performance reviews, though your performance has not faltered.
Being Targeted for Additional Duties
If you are constantly asked to perform additional, menial, unnecessary, difficult, or degrading duties when others are not.
Being Denied Overtime Opportunities
If overtime is something that is considered a reward in your industry, being denied opportunities to claim overtime hours can be an act of retaliatory sabotage.
Alternatively, your manager may suddenly start scheduling you for unpredictable or unhealthy hours. Back-to-back shifts, canceling shifts, or calling you in at the last minute can be a way to punish someone through schedule abuse.
A Cut in Pay or Hours
Reducing a person’s pay rate or their weekly hours is a way to financially damage an employee who is being retaliated against, making it difficult to pay their bills without officially issuing a penalty.
Being Pressured to Quit
If conditions and treatment have been growing increasingly worse, or if comments like “why don’t you just leave” have become evident, your employer may be trying to pressure you to quit as a form of retaliation.
It’s sad but true that sexual harassment is commonly used in workplace retaliation as a way to drive a person out or “put them in their place”. This abhorrent practice is more commonly used against women, but can be used against men as well.
Having Unreasonable Rules Placed on You Alone
Sometimes, an employee targeted for retaliation may find themselves facing more and more unreasonable rules, like restrictions on bathroom breaks or a limited number of coffee refills per day, when no one else is held to these standards.
Being Removed from Projects or Clients
If you work on prestigious projects or with important clients, you may be removed from these projects or clients as a form of punishment.
Being Removed From Your Team, or Having Subordinates Removed
If you are a manager or team leader, it is possible that your subordinates will be reassigned in order to punish you for a protected activity.
Harassment and Negative Comments
Harassment is a common retaliatory measure when a manager or coworkers are directly impacted by the triggering incident, such as reporting a specific person’s malfeasance or non-compliant actions. It is also, unfortunately, common regarding workplace injuries.
Being Passed Over for a Scheduled Promotion or Raise
Often one of the biggest signs that retaliation is in progress is when a raise or promotion that was already scheduled is no longer honored.
Denied Advancement Opportunities
Similarly, a person targeted for retaliation may be denied any opportunities for advancement, including promotions, raises, new projects, recognition, or client interactions.
Being Reassigned to a Disadvantageous or Unsuited Position
Companies often reserve the ability to reassign employees internally. But if you suddenly find yourself reassigned to menial tasks, without a desk, in a windowless office, or assigned tasks that have nothing to do with your specialties, this is a common form of retaliation.
Being Blamed for Things That Are Not Your Fault
Another common way to pose that mistreatment is not the result of retaliation is to find other things to blame you for. If suddenly all mistakes on your team or things that go wrong are identified as your fault, it is likely related to a recent protected action.
Lastly, while you may not be fired, being suspended can be a form of retaliation. Especially if it is for an indefinite amount of time.
What Activities are Protected from Workplace Retaliation?
Employers may retaliate for a wide range of reasons. However, to file a legal workplace retaliation case, the initial incident must be a protected action. Protected actions have been specifically enumerated in Federal or California legal code as actions that cannot be retaliated against. For example, if your boss has begun retaliatory actions for pointing out a spelling mistake, this is not a protected action. Therefore your case may be one of workplace harassment, but not retaliation. However, reporting legal violations like fraud, unpaid hours, or discrimination are protected actions, and your workplace is guilty of illegal workplace retaliation if they try to punish you for filing such a report.
All of the following are protected actions against retaliation, according to the State of California Department of Industrial Relations.
- Taking family and medical leave
- FMLA (family and medical leave act) protects your right to take leave for the health of yourself and your family, and not to be retaliated against for doing so.
- Reporting a work-related injury, illness, or fatality
- Workplace injuries are sometimes controversial. Some employers try to discourage employees from reporting injuries or filing workers compensation claims – and will become retaliatory against employees who are injured and take action. You are also protected if reporting the injury of someone else.
- Reporting discrimination incidents
- Discrimination in the workplace is illegal according to the EEOC and ADA, which protects employees from workplace discrimination due to their race, ethnicity, family background, sexuality, gender/sex, national origin, medical status/disability, or genetic traits. Reporting discrimination of this nature is protected, whether you experience or witness it.
- Reporting a violation of the labor code
- Violations of the labor code include unpaid hours, being paid at the wrong rate, unrecorded overtime, overtime paid at the normal rate, misclassification of exempt or contractor status, and denial of breaks or mandatory leave, among others.
- Participating in an Investigation of workplace misconduct
- If you give a statement or otherwise cooperate with a workplace misconduct investigation, you cannot legally be retaliated against.
- Disclosing or discussing your wages
- California professionals cannot be prevented from discussing wages, and it is a protected action so you cannot be retaliated against for wage discussions.
- Refusing to commit a crime on behalf of your employer
- If your manager or anyone else in your company asks you to commit a crime such as falsifying documents, stealing money, or defrauding a client, you are protected from retaliation for refusal, whether or not you report the request.
- Reporting health, safety, or regulatory violations
- Reporting regulation noncompliance is protected, both including and separate from reporting health and safety risks in the workplace that have gone unremedied.
- Reporting a crime committed in the workplace
- If you witness or become aware of someone else committing a crime in the workplace, reporting that crime is a protected action.
- Taking time off as an emergency rescue personnel or for jury duty
- Lastly, if you are summoned for jury duty or are on-call emergency personnel such as a firefighter or emergency responder, your employer cannot retaliate against you for missing hours performing these duties.
What to Do If Your Employer Retaliates Against You
If you experience or witness workplace retaliation, there are a few important steps you can and should take. First and foremost, consider your own safety. Do not accept assignments that put you at risk and, if possible, maintain your position while gathering evidence of both the initial misconduct and the retaliatory actions.
Collect Records of the Initial Incident
Keep all your records of the initial incident. If you asked that a problem be remedied or if you were threatened not to report something, keep a personal copy and a printed copy of all relevant communications. Keep copies of the report you filed and any response that occurred as a result from the company or authoritative bodies you reported to.
It may also help to write out the timeline and your experiences of how you became aware of the initial incident, the actions you took, and what happened as a result.
Collect Evidence of the Retaliation
Keep records of changes and actions from the moment you took your protected action and/or your employer became aware. Note changes that were made since that moment and actions taken toward or regarding you. Keep a record of all emails and memos, and keep a journal of anything negative said to you, or about you within your hearing. Even your schedule printouts and pay stubs before and after the protected action may serve as evidence.
If you have witnesses and friends on your side, ask them to keep records that they are privy to, as well. This may include group emails, chats, and meetings you are not involved in, comments about you behind your back, or awareness of projects you are purposely being excluded from.
However, do not put yourself at additional or unnecessary risk to collect evidence.
Consult with an Orange County Workplace Retaliation Lawyer
Once you have put together all the information you safely have access to, reach out to an Orange County workplace retaliation lawyer, such as the helpful attorneys at Eldessouky Law. A lawyer experienced in workplace retaliation will help you collect proof of retaliation and make a plan that will both compensate you for the retaliation and hold your company accountable for the initial malfeasance.
Take Legal Action
After a consultation, you and your lawyer will build a strategy that achieves your desired goals. This may involve negotiating with your employer for a settlement or even taking them to trial to achieve the compensation that is owed to you based on their legal misconduct. Eldessouky Law’s California employment lawyers can help you if you or someone you know has experienced workplace retaliation, or if you are worried about retaliation if you take a protected action in the near future.
Contact us for advice and legal services.