How to Deal with Retaliation in the Workplace

Posted on: February 21, 2019

According to a recent report by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), workplace retaliation cases are one of the most commonly filed complaints in California. In 2017, more than eight thousand employees sought legal action by being in hot water after engaging in legally protected activity nationwide. Of that total, over one thousand came from the county of Los Angeles.

With the efforts of the DFEH to help workers push back against civil rights violations with the new California Civil Rights System (CCRS), more cases can come to the surface and are resolved in due process.

What is Retaliation in the Workplace?

Retaliation in the workplace refers to the unjust imposition of punishment towards an employee who participated in an activity protected by the law. It is when your employer suddenly treats you poorly after doing something that is required, expected or is geared toward self-preservation. Reporting your boss for illegal activity, for instance, is deemed to be part of one’s moral obligations but is usually met with unwarranted consequences. Acts of revenge directed to a worker who has chosen to fulfill this responsibility is known as a whistleblower violation and is considered as a type of workplace retaliation.

Such occurrences cause tremendous mental and emotional stress and physical turmoil to the employee. Victims of workplace retaliation typically experience panic attacks, spikes in blood pressure, ulcers, and anxiety among others. Consequently, they tend to be less productive and more preoccupied with trying to cope with the tense situation. The uneasiness can also affect one’s co-workers, potentially creating a hostile work environment that promotes absenteeism and parades a negative image of the company.

Signs that You are Being Retaliated Against by Your Employer

Workplace retaliation come in many different forms and can range from discreet responses to highly conspicuous actions. Subtle changes in interpersonal engagements, receiving an unpleasant work schedule, passive-aggressive side comments, and attempts to push alienation are examples of toned down attacks. More deliberate retaliatory schemes include getting barred from meetings, being denied of benefits, a sudden increase in workload, and even wrongful termination.

Blatant harassment and discrimination occurrences in the workplace are much easier to build a case upon when you are being retaliated against by your employer, making it more vital for you to have the right amount of vigilance when you feel as though you are purposefully compromised. Bear in mind that any maneuver succeeding an officially filed complaint in opposition to your employer is grounds for legal action so long as you are adversely affected.

Are All Forms of Workplace Retaliation Illegal?

No matter how disruptive your employer’s misdemeanor may be, specific parameters must be met for an act to be considered as a form of illegal workplace retaliation. A deed is deemed to be retaliatory only if it is preceded by a legally protected activity partaken by the receiver of the attack. This scenario covers filing against sexual harassment and combating discrimination. It is also unlawful to be given a difficult time after asking for possible accommodations related to having a disability or having specific religious practices.

Acts of retaliation can likewise be dubbed as illegal regardless of whether or not the initial claims of the employee are true. If an investigative body, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), finds that the initial report of criminal activity or harassment is erroneous, the opposing party still cannot unduly reprimand an employee for coming to an authoritative body to review the case. As long as an employee genuinely felt wronged and did not contrive the situation for personal gain, any form of retribution is prohibited by the law.

Anti-Workplace Retaliation Law in California

Today, numerous safeguards protect employees from workplace retaliation in California. For example, under section 98.6 of the Labor Code, employees who wish to or have already filed a complaint against their employer are decreed to continue receiving their benefits as a worker of the company. An employee may also be rewarded up to $10,000 for every stipulation of section 98.6 an employer has violated. Because of its comprehensive safeguards, Labor Code 98.6 is better known as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Similar laws include the “whistleblower protection” law (LC 1102.5) and the California False Claims Act.

What to do in Case of Retaliation in the Workplace

Although there are heavy repercussions to employers who retaliate against their workers, numerous cases are still being reported to this day. If you feel as though you are being mistreated after doing something that is explicitly protected by the law, here are a few tips you can follow to protect yourself from further damage:

  1. Know Your Rights

Before even getting employed, it is imperative that you be well-versed or at least familiar with employment and labor laws. Doing so helps your ability to spot illegal actions easily and ensures that you don’t get yourself into something you might regret. Read contracts thoroughly and report to the proper authorities if you experience any form of harassment.

  1. Build a Strong Case

Document as much of the negative events as possible starting from what you feel is the cause of retaliation. Take note of the exact date when you filed your first claim to fortify the link between that and the unjust punishments you received later on. It is also useful to keep track of your performance at work to show that potential demotions, salary cuts, or wrongful termination are made without bounds.

Hire an Experienced Employment Law Attorney

Going up against people who have power over us is a challenging endeavor. If you think you have been retaliated against at work, it is in your best interest to have the guidance of an expert employment retaliation lawyer. Mesriani Law Group (MLG) is home to experienced and compassionate attorneys who are equipped with the expertise to win your case. Visit the Los Angeles based law firm in person or through our website to for a free legal consultation.