Bravery should be rewarded, not punished. It takes great courage for an employee to speak up about an injustice occurring in his or her workplace. Employees should be able to voice their concerns and affect change in their work environments without fear of retaliation.
Too often, however, employers do not abide by the law and let their bitter feelings about the reports of unlawful conduct cloud their best judgment. When this happens, an employer may be held liable for retaliation.
Keep reading to learn more about workplace retaliation. If you believe you've been the victim of retaliation in the workplace, contact our San Francisco-based employment counsel for a consultation.
What is workplace retaliation?
Retaliation occurs when an employee suffers some consequence at his or her job because he or she reported discrimination, harassment, or some other unlawful activity. Retaliation can take many forms, affecting an employee's work environment, job status, and overall satisfaction. Examples of workplace retaliation include:
Demotion or termination: Taking away an employee's position or firing them because they filed a complaint or lawsuit against the employer or participated in an investigation.
Salary reductions: Cutting an employee's pay because of their involvement in protected activities, such as whistleblowing or discussing wages with colleagues.
Negative performance evaluations: Giving an employee unjustifiably poor performance reviews after they have engaged in protected activities.
Exclusionary behavior: Intentionally excluding an employee from meetings, training sessions, or other work-related activities without a legitimate reason, following their engagement in protected activities.
These examples can help you identify whether you've been retaliated against and take action to protect your rights. If you believe you've been subjected to workplace retaliation, we recommend consulting with an employment lawyer to discuss your case and explore your legal options.
What are protected activities?
Protected activities are employee actions that are secure from employer retaliation under both federal and state laws. These activities are considered protected because they are rights guaranteed to employees in order to empower them to raise concerns, report illegal or unethical behavior, or participate in certain processes without fear of punishment. If an employer is proven to have retaliated against a worker for engaging in protected activities, they can face significant legal penalties.=
Examples of protected activities include:
Filing a complaint: Submitting a complaint about workplace discrimination, harassment, safety violations, or any other illegal practice to a supervisor, human resources, or a government agency.
Participating in an investigation: Being involved in an investigation into workplace misconduct, whether it's conducted internally by the employer or externally by a government agency.
Whistleblowing: Reporting illegal activities, unsafe work conditions, or violations of laws to internal supervisors or external entities like government agencies.
Discussing wages: Talking with co-workers about salaries or other benefits, which is protected under the National Labor Relations Act.
Using FMLA leave: Taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for eligible medical or family reasons without facing disciplinary action or termination.
Resisting or obstructing sexual harassment: Rejecting sexual advances or intervening to protect others from workplace sexual harassment.
Requesting reasonable accommodations: Asking for reasonable accommodations for a disability or for religious practices.
Engaging in union activities: Participating in union organizing, attending union meetings, or engaging in other activities related to collective bargaining.
How do I prove retaliation?
To prove retaliation, you must first show that you have complained about discrimination, harassment or some other unlawful activity, usually to either a manager other than the one about whom you are complaining or to the company's human resources.
Next, you must show that your employer acted adversely against you. For example, you'll need to show you were terminated, demoted, or your performance evaluation was unduly negative.
Finally, you must show that your complaint was the cause of the adverse employment action taken against you. Typically, this is proven by showing that the adverse action took place within a short period after you complained.
What should I do if I've been retaliated against?
You should make a written complaint to your human resources, anyone with authority above you at your place of work or a government agency if appropropriate. Keep a copy of your written complaint for your records. You should also keep a diary of events as they occur and get the names of witnesses who can verify what transpired. If you are unsure of what to do, The Sampath Law Firm is here to listen and help you evaluate your options.
Contact an Experienced San Francisco Retaliation Attorney
If you believe you've been retaliated against by your Bay Area-based workplace, it's important to act quickly – a retaliation claim must be filed within a specific timeframe. Counsel at The Sampath Law Firm is here to fight for your rights. Get in touch with us today for an initial consultation.