When we were children, one sentence more than any other sentence pervaded classrooms, playgrounds, and auditoriums.
“I’m going to get you for that.”
The simple sentence is the declaration of retaliation. From getting even with another kid for stealing lunch money to evening the score with another kid for hiding an art project, retaliation is as common of a childhood phenomenon as Burt and Ernie.
Unfortunately, some employers never lost the childish desire to get even with workers. Retaliation in the workplace got so bad that states like California passed employment laws that prohibit wrongful terminations based on acts of retaliation.
Learning how to detect retaliatory acts in the workplace can help you win a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Reporting Illegal Activities
California law grants workers the legal power to report unlawful violations of a wide variety of statutes. Employees also have the legal right to report unlawful violations to a supervisor. Some employers do not appreciate an employee reporting illegal activities, which leads to retaliation in the form of wrongful termination.
Employers operating in California cannot punish or fire employees that report violations of state law or federal law. California employers also cannot prevent a worker from testifying in front of a government agency or body of legislators.
Complaining About Discrimination and Harassment
Although the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination and harassment in the workplace, a separate statute protects workers that complain about harassing and discriminatory acts. Employers are forbidden to punish employees that complain about or report acts of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. One common form of punishment is termination.
Filing a Complaint Concerning Back Wages
Employees in California have the legal power to file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner’s office when they believe their employers have cheated them out of pay. Some employers try to undermine the legal right to report unpaid wages by firing employees that file complaints.
California workers not only have the right to file a complaint about unpaid wages, but they also have the right to complain about back pay to their employer.
Reporting Unsafe Working Conditions
Employers cannot terminate workers that file complaints regarding unsafe working conditions. Employees have the right to file a complaint with their employers, as well as contact a government agency such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In addition to banning the practice of firing employees because of safety complaints, employers are also prohibited from firing employees that refuse to work because of unsafe working conditions.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
California public policy states, “that there should not be discrimination against workers who are injured in the course and scope of their employment.” Many California courts have issued rulings that interpret the public policy to include protecting workers from retaliation because they file a workers’ comp claim.
The sweeping language written into the public policy decree gives workers the right to file a lawsuit because their employers treat them unfairly or terminated the at-will employment relationship.
Asking for Reasonable Accommodations
One of the most common reasons employers retaliate against workers is because of the request for reasonable accommodations to complete job functions. A reasonable accommodation represents an adjustment an employer makes to a worker’s job duties and/or working conditions. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers disability issues in the workplace, California employment law protects disabled workers against retaliatory acts committed by their employers.
Here are a few common examples of circumstances that warrant a request for reasonable accommodations:
- Disabled workers have the right to work under different conditions than other employees
- An employer cannot deny a disabled employee’s request for time off to treat or rehabilitate mental or physical symptoms
- Workers that have difficulty reading can ask for reasonable accommodations that improve reading skills
- Employees battling substance abuse issues should have access to substance abuse rehabilitation programs
Although most cases of reasonable accommodations involve a disability issue, there is one exception to the rule. Employees have the right to an accommodation that allows them to follow their religious practices and observances.
Find Out How an Employment Attorney Can Help
Losing a job because of employer retaliation can trigger a wide range of negative emotions, including anger and frustration. If your employer fired you because you reported a violation or filed a complaint, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer who can decide whether you have enough convincing evidence to file a civil lawsuit.
Your lawyer can help you get back your job, as well as recover damages for back pay and emotional distress.