The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word "retaliate" as "to repay (as an injury) in kind; to get revenge."
In the workplace, employers unfortunately retaliate against their own employees for many reasons. Fortunately for aggrieved employees, California has laws in place to protect employees from certain retaliatory conduct. Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against any employee who engages in "protected activity." "Protected Activity" under FEHA consists of an employee resisting or objecting to harassment or discrimination in the workplace.
Further, FEHA forbids "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.”
For an employee to be successful in a lawsuit against their employer for retaliation, the employee must show:
1) he or she engaged in a protected activity;
2) the employer subjected the employee to an adverse employment action; and
3) the protected activity and the employer's adverse action were causally connected.
The employee only needs to have a "reasonable belief" that their employer or other co-employees are engaging in unlawful activity and need not expressly state the wrongful conduct is illegal in order to qualify for FEHA's protections. However, the retaliation by the employer must be "material," meaning it must materially affect the terms and conditions of employment.
If you need to speak with an attorney regarding retaliation in the workplace or any other employment law issue, please contact Richardson "Red" Griswold of Griswold Law, APC at (858) 481-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.