An overview of California's retaliation laws for employers

Employees have the right to report labor violations in good faith. And if they file a complaint or a report, they also have state and federal protections against retaliation from their employers.

Most employers understand that retaliation is illegal. However, there is much more to know than that. Here is a quick summary of California's anti-retaliation laws for business owners.

California prohibits retaliation for many reasons

It is against California law for employers to retaliate against their employees for a wide range of reasons, including:

  • Reporting workplace harassment
  • Serving jury duty
  • Taking time off for childcare
  • Holding specific political beliefs

It is clear to see that workplace retaliation laws often overlap with discrimination laws. That is common. Retaliation is often a base of discrimination in the workplace.

The most common forms of retaliation

The California Labor Code also highlights some of the most common types of illegal retaliation, such as:

  • Stopping or decreasing employee wages
  • Docking vacation or severance pay
  • Terminating the employee

These actions are sometimes legal. For example, employers can terminate at-will employees, even without reason. However, it is illegal to fire the employee for filing a complaint.

Recent changes in the law


In 2018, the penalties employers faced in retaliation claims increased. Employers may have to pay more restitution to the employee who filed the claim. Penalties also include fines up to $10,000.

Many business owners cannot afford to pay the price of a retaliation claim. Reviewing the relevant laws can help business owners avoid acts of retaliation in the first place. It can also help them protect their business long-term.

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