Staying Quiet out of Fear? Workplace Retaliation Law is here to protect you.

Staying Quiet out of Fear? Workplace Retaliation Law is here to protect you.

You know your employer has broken California Labor Laws, but you are fearful to come forward because they will retaliate against you. Whistleblower Laws in California are put in place to protect you and your fellow employees against workplace retaliation. You do not have to stay quiet any longer. Speak up and let Johnson Attorneys Group know the details of your situation without fear of retaliation. We are here to listen and help.

Is Your Employer Threatening Retaliation Against You?

It is all too common today for employers to use an employee’s situation or personal information against them or retaliate against the employee because of time off or personal leave. As someone who is experiencing retaliation at work, remember that you have rights and are protected by law. For a FREE consultation to learn what your rights are and how serious your case is, call Johnson Attorneys Group today. Stop the retaliation and take back control.

What Really is Retaliation?

Retaliation happens when an employee is fired, demoted or reassigned to a lesser position by their employer following a “protected activity.”

Typically, the act of retaliation punishes a job applicant or employee for asserting their rights or defending themselves from employment discrimination or harassment.

Retaliation can happen to you whether you are an executive at a big company, a retail or office worker, or even a farm worker. Government employees, police and firefighters, teachers, etc. may also file lawsuits against their employers for retaliation.

Certainly, it can be intimidating for employees to speak up about discrimination, sexual harassment or illegal activities in the workplace. Most people fear they will lose their job, be demoted or even fired for speaking out about workplace issues or reporting their company’s illegal practices.

However, those who do make these claims are protected against retaliation by their employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Retaliation is the number one complaint heard by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In fact, the majority of retaliation claims in California are the result of a wage dispute. Typically, the employer is not paying overtime or minimum wage. Other major causes of retaliation involve discrimination. The employee themselves may suffer discrimination or they may have stepped forward to defend another employee. Employers often retaliate by firing an employee, but not always. Other illegal responses by employers include reassigning an employee to a less desirable position, taking away company perks or benefits or failing to promote the worker as would normally take place.

Employers typically retaliate against employees/job applicants who:

  • File or act as a witness to an EEO charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit;
  • Tell a supervisor about harassment or employment discrimination;
  • Are questioned about an alleged harassment during an employer investigation;
  • Refuse to obey a supervisor’s orders that would result in discrimination;
  • Resist sexual advances; intervene to protect others being sexually harassed;
  • Ask for accommodations for a disability or for a religious practice;
  • Request salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages.

Workers, however, are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which prohibits employers from retaliating against workers.

It’s common in California for an employer to fire minimum wage workers who make complaints about not being paid overtime. Such was the case of a Fresno County farm worker who told his boss he was going to work for another farm because he wasn’t being paid properly:

Farm Worker Reported to Immigration by Employer’s Attorney Wins $1 million Retaliation Lawsuit

A Mexican farm worker employed in Fresno County filed lawsuits against both his employer and the dairy farm’s attorney. Angelo Dairy had threatened to report the man to immigration authorities after a wage dispute between them. The farm worker wanted to leave his job for another farm that paid higher wages, but his employer threatened to report him to immigration. Instead of leaving, the farm worker remained at the dairy farm for 10 more years out of fear of being reported to immigration. Eventually, in 2006, the farm worker sued the dairy farm for failure to pay overtime and provide meal breaks. Then about 10 weeks before the trial, the dairy farm’s attorney contacted immigration about the worker in retaliation for the first lawsuit. So, the worker also filed a retaliation lawsuit against the attorney.

The dairy farm’s attorney argued in court that he was not the farm worker’s employer, but the 9th Circuit Court reversed a lower court’s decision and held that third parties acting on behalf of employers can still be liable for unlawful labor retaliation. The worker won a $1 million award from the lawsuits.

Company Executive Files Retaliation Lawsuit

San Francisco-based e-cigarette manufacturer Juul, has been accused of retaliation by its former Senior Vice President of Finance, Siddharth Breja.

Breja reportedly protested a decision by the CEO to resell expired pods to consumers and he raised concerns about a contaminated shipment. The company’s CEO ignored the VP’s concerns and allegedly retaliated against him by firing him in March 2019.

The company denied they retaliated against Breja. Instead, they say Breja lied to them on his job application about his previous experience -- Breja disputes that claim. Juul also added that Breja was fired because he lacked “leadership qualities needed in his role.”

Breja has now filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Juul, alleging in court documents -- filed in US District Court for the Northern District of California -- that the 4-year-old company had a culture of intimidation.

The lawsuit claims that Juul’s CEO told his employees they could not challenge the boss. It alleges that the CEO told Breja and other executives that there could only be “one king at Juul” and that was him.

Juul denied Breja’s claims and pledged to “vigorously defend this lawsuit.” The company contends that their products meet all applicable specifications.

The results of this case are pending, but Juul has since replaced the CEO named in the lawsuit.

Actions Considered Retaliation

The above cases are examples of retaliation that took place here in California, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Workers are subjected to all sorts of retaliation from their employers. Most complaints arise from the following:

  • Failure to address employee complaints;
  • Inaccurate or negative performance reviews;
  • Wrongful termination;
  • Poor job references;
  • Schedule changes that are sudden or demeaning.

Proving a Retaliation Claim

Below are the elements that a person would need to prove to bring a retaliation claim against an employer:

  • The worker was engaged in a constitutionally protected activity in the workplace;
  • The defendant or employer engaged in conduct that retaliated against the worker;
  • The employer’s actions were made in retaliation against the worker for a protected activity;
  • The employer’s acts would likely deter an ordinary person from engaging in the protected activity;
  • The employee was harmed as a result of the employer’s conduct.

Contact Our California Employment Law Firm

No matter what type of job you hold, an employer may retaliate against you if you report a violation or suffer discrimination in the workplace. It’s important that you take steps to document what happened by reporting the retaliation up the chain of command at your company. However, if your efforts fail to put a stop to the retaliation, you may wish to file a formal complaint or seek legal counsel. Johnson Attorneys Group is here to help.

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