An employer cannot retaliate against any employee who engages in protected activity under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Pursuant to FEHA, it is unlawful “[f]or any employer…or person to discharge, expel, or otherwise discriminate against any person because the person has opposed any practices forbidden under this part or because the person has filed a complaint, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under this part.” Essentially, your employer cannot take any adverse employment action against you for exercising certain rights, or for complaining about something illegal going on at work.
The California Labor Code provides separate protections against retaliation. Unlike retaliation claims under FEHA, which protect employees who complain to their employers of harassment or discrimination, California Labor Code section 1102.5 and 98.6 provide employees with broader protections for conduct an employee reasonably believes is unlawful.
Specifically, California Labor Code section 1102.5 prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who: (1) discloses information to a governmental or law enforcement agency based on a reasonable belief that the employer is violating a statute, rule, or regulation; (2) refuses to participate in an employer activity that would result in a violation of a statute, rule, or regulation; and (3) reports suspected illegal behavior either internally, or to the authorities. Retaliation under Section 1102.5 based on the belief that an employee disclosed or might disclose information about a reasonably-believed violation of federal, state, or local law, even if the employee did not make such a disclosure, is prohibited.
Similarly, California Labor Code section 98.6 prohibits retaliation against employees who
• Exercise the right to pursue claims against an employer before the California Labor Commissioner;
• Make a written or oral complaint for unpaid wages;
• Bring a claim under the Private Attorney General Act (PAGA); or
• Exercise a statutory right or privilege including brining a claim under the FEHA.
California law provides that an employee terminated or otherwise subjected to an adverse employment action in violation of these provisions is entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages. In addition, an employer who violates these provisions is subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation. In fact, the $10,000 civil penalty is payable to the employee or employees who suffered from the violation(s). California’s legislature’s desire to protect employees is so great that it is also a criminal misdemeanor for an employer to willfully refuse to reinstate or otherwise restore an employee who is eligible for reinstatement.
If you have been retaliated against for exercising your rights at work, call Tash Law Group today. Our attorneys are here to assist you in your time of need.