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
  • Holding specific political beliefs

As you can see workplace retaliation laws often overlap with discrimination laws.

The most common forms of retaliation

The California Labor Code 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

A California employer must be cautious, because while it's ordinarily legal to engage in these types of business practices, they are illegal if used in response to an employee's legally protected conduct. For example, employers can terminate at-will employees, even without reason. However, it is illegal to fire the employee for supporting a particular political candidate or reporting an instance of sexual harassment at the workplace.

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, plus fines up to $10,000 and perhaps even the employee's legal fees.

Many business owners cannot afford to pay the price of a retaliation claim. Immediately consulting an experienced employment attorney at the first sign of a retaliation issue can help minimize an employer's potential exposure. Also, engaging an attorney to review a business's policies and procedures to make sure they're in compliance with California law ahead of any incident may be sufficient to head-off any future claims.

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