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How to Prove Unlawful Retaliation in California

Worker

Workplace retaliation is prevalent not only in California, but across the nation. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions (EEOC), employees filed nearly 40,000 retaliation claims in 2019 — more than half of all types of charges filed with the agency last year.

Under California law, it is illegal for an employer to punish an employee for engaging in a protected activity. If you were fired for engaging in a protected activity, or experienced any other form of retaliation, you could have grounds for an unlawful retaliation claim against your employer.

What is a ‘Protected Activity’ Under California’s Employment Law?

You may have a valid workplace retaliation claim against your employer if they take adverse employment action against you for engaging in a protected activity. Some of the most common “protected” activities under California employment law include:

  • Filing (or threatening to file) a discrimination or harassment lawsuit or complaint
  • Filing a wage or hour claim
  • Reporting illegal conduct in the workplace
  • Refusing to engage in unlawful conduct
  • Reporting safety violations in the workplace to authorities
  • Cooperating with other employees in filing a lawsuit or complaint
  • Filing a complaint about illegal activities or fraud in the workplace
  • Requesting accommodations for a disability or religious beliefs
  • Taking time off to serve on a jury or as a witness in court

What are some Examples of Unlawful Retaliation in the Workplace?

While unlawful termination can be a case of retaliation, there are other forms of adverse employment action that constitute unlawful retaliation, as well. Some of the most common types of unlawful retaliation include:

  • Cut in pay
  • Demotion
  • Loss in job title
  • Suspension
  • Termination / threat to job security
  • Transfer to another department / location

What Do You Need to Prove When Filing a Retaliation Claim?

You must establish each of the following three elements to prove retaliation in California:

  1. You engaged in a protected activity
  2. Your employer took adverse employment action against you
  3. The protected activity was the primary reason for suffering the adverse employment action

As you can see, you must be able to prove a link between an adverse employment action and your protected activity. Doing so can be difficult, which is why retaining an experienced employment lawyer to help prove unlawful retaliation is recommended.

What Types of Evidence Do You Need to Support an Unlawful Retaliation Claim?

One of the key elements for a successful retaliation claim is timing. If you faced retaliation shortly after engaging in a protected activity, you are more likely to have a valid claim. Gather all records, performance reviews, emails, and other communications and documents that support your claim.

In most unlawful retaliation cases, retaliatory statements are pieces of evidence. For example, if your employer sent you an email demonstrating their disapproval of your protected activity and you were fired shortly after the email, that email could help you prove retaliation.

Filing a retaliation lawsuit against your employer may feel intimidating. You might fear that suing your employer could negatively impact your career. It is best to consult with an attorney with experience in unlawful retaliation cases to evaluate and potentially help you pursue your particular case.

Talk to one of our Los Angeles unlawful retaliation lawyers at Obagi Law Group, P.C. if you believe that you were unlawfully retaliated against. Call 424-284-2401 to schedule a consultation today, and sign up for our newsletter to learn more about your legal rights at work.

This post is informational only and should not be understood as legal advice. This post does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Resource:

eeoc.gov/newsroom/eeoc-releases-fiscal-year-2019-enforcement-and-litigation-data

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