California Workplace Retaliation

California state and federal laws prohibit an employer from taking an adverse employment action against an employee who engages in protected activity or is the subject of discrimination in the workplace. A worker who is experiencing this type of conduct from their employer may have a claim for damages. If you or someone you know is facing retaliation in the workplace in California, talk to an experienced employment lawyer about the case today.

Examples of Retaliation

Workplace retaliation, or adverse employment actions, can come in many forms. The most common example of workplace retaliation is termination of employment; however, there are many other acts that can be considered retaliatory. These adverse employment actions include the following:


  • Firing
  • Refusal to hire
  • Demotion
  • Transfer to an undesirable location
  • Scheduling difficult work hours
  • Poor performance reviews
  • Disciplinary acts
  • Creating unmanageable workload or responsibilities, and more.

 Retaliation can also occur outside the scope of employment if an employer makes a threat or takes an action that adversely affects an employee’s work after participating in protected conduct, such as threatening to call immigration services on a foreign employee. Employers are also prohibited from taking actions against an employee’s family members in retaliation for the employee engaging in protected activity.

What Activity is Protected?

There are many different types of protected activity that an employer is not allowed to retaliate against, but they fall into four main categories — reporting violations of the law; participating in an investigation regarding workplace harassment or discrimination; requesting reasonable accommodations; and filing or assisting with a whistleblower case.

Examples of protected conduct include, but are not limited to, the following activities: 

  • Filing or being a witness to an EEOC charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit
  • Communicating with a supervisor or human resources about discrimination or harassment
  • Resisting unwanted sexual advances in the workplace or protecting others from such action
  • Reporting illegal actions taken by the employer to law enforcement or a government agency
  • Refusing to follow orders from a superior that would result in discrimination
  • Requesting reasonable accommodation for religious purposes or to accommodate a disability, and more.

Compensation for a Workplace Retaliation Claim

If proven that an employer took an adverse employment action against an employee in California after they engaged in protected activity, that worker is entitled to damages for the harm suffered as a result of the workplace retaliation. This can include back pay, including earned benefits, reinstatement of a former position, attorneys’ fees, and in particularly egregious cases the employee may be awarded punitive damages. This is compensation awarded to punish an employer for particularly willful and wanton behavior as well as serve as a deterrent to other employers who may consider engaging in similar activity.

Talk to a Lawyer Now

Have you or someone you know in California suffered workplace retaliation for engaging in protected activity? If so, you may have a claim against your employer for compensation. To learn more about your legal options in a workplace retaliation case, talk to a local California employment attorney about your case today.