Employers have the right to make decisions on how they run their business, as long as those decisions comply with state and federal laws.

For instance, an employer can decide whether to hire someone, when to let employees go and how to move them around to best meet the needs of the company. However, if any of these decisions violate the laws in place to protect workers, then an employer could face legal action.

This could happen if someone accuses an employer of retaliation.

What is retaliation?

Retaliation is an adverse action or decision taken against an employee who engages in protected activities. These activities include reporting sexual harassment, requesting an accommodation, filing a workers’ compensation claim and refusing to engage in unlawful conduct.

What does retaliation look like?

Retaliation can take many forms. Examples of retaliation include:

  • Firing an employee
  • Changing a person’s work schedule in a way that will knowingly cause problems for the worker
  • Transferring the worker to a less desirable location or position
  • Denying a promotion or bonus
  • Denying leave or time off
  • Firing someone related to or married to the person
  • Demoting the worker
  • Creating a hostile work environment
  • Giving an undeserved poor performance evaluation

If an employer takes these or similar actions in response to a job applicant or employee’s participation in any protected activity, he or she can face legal action.

Handling retaliation claims

If an employee claims that an employer retaliated against him or her, it is important to take such claims seriously. Often, it is possible to show that an employment decision was based on something other than the participation in protected activity, though this typically requires careful recordkeeping and legal counsel.

Employers in California can avoid such claims by understanding retaliation laws and discussing any concerns about employment decisions with an attorney.