Advocating For California Employee Rights

What is workplace retaliation?

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2024 | Retaliation

Employment retaliation is any adverse action taken against an employee by the employer due to the employee engaging in legally-protected activity. This activity can include filing a complaint about workplace discrimination or harassment, participating in a workplace investigation, taking a legally-protected leave of absence or any other action to assert their rights under employment laws.

Retaliation in the workplace can manifest in various forms, ranging from subtle to overt actions by employers.

Types of retaliation

One common form of retaliation is demotion. An employee who has filed a complaint or participated in an investigation may be suddenly demoted to a lower position with reduced responsibilities and pay. This demotion isn’t based on job performance or business needs but is punitive.

Another example is termination. Employees may sometimes be terminated from their positions after engaging in protected activity. This is often justified under pretextual reasons that mask the true retaliatory motive. Employers might cite performance issues or restructuring as reasons for the termination, despite a lack of evidence to support these claims.

Subtle forms of retaliation

Retaliation isn’t always overt and can take more subtle forms. For instance, an employee may experience exclusion from meetings or projects crucial to their career advancement. This exclusion isolates and penalizes the employee without taking direct disciplinary action.

Changes in job duties or schedules can also be a form of retaliation. An employee might find their job duties significantly altered to less desirable tasks, or their work schedule might be changed in ways that conflict with personal obligations, making it difficult for them to continue in their role.

Retaliation that occurs in response to a protected status or activity is unlawful. Workers have the right to take legal action, so seeking legal assistance may help them decide how to handle these situations most efficiently and effectively.