California and Federal laws prohibit an employer from discriminating or retaliating against an employee because the employee engaged in conduct protected by law. Protected conduct includes things such as:
- Exercising the right to pursue claims against an employer before the California Labor Commissioner.
- Making a written or oral complaint for unpaid wages.
- Providing an employer notice of a claim under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004.
- Exercising rights to equal pay under California’s Equal Pay Act.
- Disclosing wages, discussing the wages of others, inquiring about another employee’s wages, or aiding or encouraging any other employee to exercise his or her rights under California’s Equal Pay Act.
- Participating in politics or political activities.
- Disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, to a person with authority over the employee, where the employee has reasonable cause to believe the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation.
- Refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation.
- Exercising a statutory right or privilege.
- Opposing unlawful discrimination and/or filing a complaint, testifying, or assisting in any proceeding against an employer for unlawful discrimination.
Remedies for Retaliation
California law provides that an employee who was discharged or otherwise suffered 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. Recent amendments to California law, which took effect on January 1, 2015, make the $10,000 civil penalty payable to the employee or employees who suffered from the violation(s). Notably, it is a misdemeanor to willfully refuse to reinstate or otherwise restore an employee who is eligible for reinstatement.
An employee who is subject to retaliation for opposing unlawful discrimination or participating in a claim for unlawful discrimination against his or her employer may also be entitled to compensatory damages, punitive damages and an award of reasonable costs and attorney fees.
Contact Kaplan Weiss LLP if you believe you are the victim of unlawful retaliation by your employer.