Getting fired or demoted at work can take a tremendous toll on employees and their families. Not only do these actions mean losing income, but they can also mean lost benefits and damage to a professional reputation.
While every instance of employment termination can be upsetting for these reasons, some cases are also illegal. For example, you may have grounds to take legal action if you were wrongfully terminated due to retaliation.
What is retaliation?
Retaliation refers to adverse actions that employers take against an employee to punish them for engaging in protected activity or activity in which the law protects their right to participate.
Adverse actions often mean firing a worker, but it can also involve:
- Demoting someone
- Changing their schedule to inconvenience them
- Making threats
- Starting unflattering rumors
Some examples of protected activity include:
- Filing a complaint about sexual harassment or discrimination
- Requesting an accommodation for a disability
- Taking leave to which they are entitled
- Reporting an unsafe workplace
- Refusing to commit illegal acts at work
California laws also protect workers from retaliatory actions based on an employee’s status as a crime victim or if they must take time off to serve on a jury.
If your employer punishes you for your participation in these activities, you could make a claim seeking financial damages and possible job reinstatement.
Making the case in court
Retaliation cases are more complicated than claiming your employer punished you. Employers can fire people and otherwise punish them for any reason that is not discriminatory or illegal.
Thus, parties must show that the punishments were because they participated in protected activity. Often, this means retaining supporting documentation, such as emails, performance reviews and notes on conversations that connect adverse actions to protected activity.
Every employee has rights worth protecting, including the right to be free from workplace retaliation. If your rights have been violated, you can take legal action to protect them, your livelihood and your professional reputation.