In general, California is a worker-friendly state. California's anti-discrimination and employee rights laws are among the most stringent in the world, protecting a broader range of jobs than federal laws. Staff who exercise protected rights in California are protected from being fired, demoted, refused jobs, or otherwise disciplined under the state's retaliation laws.

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Find a Labor Law Attorney for a Retaliation Claim

The laws are intended to bridge the void for employees who speak up and are not wrongfully punished but are treated unfairly at work as a result. While there is some correlation between wrongful termination and retaliation, each covers actions not protected by the other. Workplace retaliation laws protect California employees who, for example, condemn unethical actions, report violations to the state's fair housing department, file a lawsuit against their employer, or testify against the corporation in a legal case and are disciplined.

Prohibited Behavior

Employee rights, unfair firing, and anti-discrimination laws in California protect employees from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Discrimination based on protected classes such as ethnicity, gender, faith, or sexuality is illegal in California, as actions were taken against whistleblowers or anyone who files a complaint with the Labor Commissioner. A worker has the right to take disciplinary action if he or she witnesses, learns, or believes that an employer is discriminating or threatening an employee based on certain attributes or behaviors.

It Isn't Just About Firing an Employee

Fully knowing the consequences of a retaliatory discharge, an employer may do a variety of things to punish you for disclosing workplace harassment:

  • Giving a negative performance evaluation
  • Refusing a promotion
  • Disciplinary action
  • Isolating and alienating you from your coworkers
  • Assigning you to less suitable tasks

Similarly, an employer might attempt to justify such actions by claiming that they had nothing to do with your complaint. If you're worried about retaliation, you'll need a tough and experienced labor lawyer by your side. It's bad enough to work in an environment where abuse and prejudice are commonplace. On top of that, don't be bullied by retaliatory behavior. Contact a California pre-screened Employment Lawyer to help you fight back.

Employer Retaliation and Discrimination are Prohibited in Los Angeles.

Employer retaliation in Los Angeles occurs when an employer withholds compensation, fires an employee, or otherwise discriminates against an employee for speaking out against unfair labor conditions or other criminal activity by the employer. More than 30 California statutes prohibited retaliation and discrimination against job seekers and workers. The most critical of these laws protect an employee or work candidate from discrimination or retaliation based on the following factors:

  • A party's decision to file or threaten to file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner, the initiation of any proceeding relating to rights guaranteed by the Labor Commissioner, the exercise of such rights, or participation in any Labor Commissioner proceeding relating to such rights
  • An individual who takes time off from work to serve on a jury or as a witness in court proceedings.
  • An employee is a parent who needs or demands time off in order to attend their child's school at the teacher's request.
  • An employee's discussion or disclosure of wage payments, as well as his or her agreement or refusal to discuss or report wage payments
  • An employer requires an employee to keep all details about working conditions and other aspects of jobs confidential. Such an employer cannot require a legal waiver of an employee's right to reveal details about working conditions.
  • Use or attempted use of sick leave by an employee to assist a sick parent, spouse, child, or domestic partner.

California on Workplace Discrimination

When an employer regards an employee differently because of the employee's race, gender, religion, ethnicity, orientation, age, pregnancy, or disability, employment discrimination is known as employment discrimination. Employers may discriminate by favoring workers of a certain race, gender, or religion, refusing benefits or firing employees based on race, gender, or religion, or making unwelcome sexual advances. If you are subjected to workplace discrimination, it must end.

Though job discrimination is against the law in any state, Californians are better protected than employees in every other state. The Equal Work and Housing Act of California specifically prohibits employment discrimination for any of the following reasons:

What is the concept of whistleblower retaliation?

Unfortunately, illegal and improper workplace behavior is more widespread than any of us would like to admit. Employees who see their bosses or colleagues acting inappropriately or who have reason to believe their employer is violating state or federal laws should not be afraid to speak up. California, maybe more than any other state in the world, takes workplace misconduct complaints very seriously. If you have experienced or been the victim of inappropriate behavior in your workplace, it is imperative that you take the necessary measures to report the behavior.

When an employee reports a rule breach, a safety violation, or refuses to disobey the law when prompted by their boss, this is known as whistleblowing. Internal reporting of unlawful or fraudulent conduct to a supervisor or human resources, efforts to remedy unlawful or fraudulent conduct, reporting conduct to an outside administrative or governmental entity such as the police, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and so on are all protected by whistleblower defense laws.

When an employer learns of a whistleblower and then takes retaliatory action against the employee, illegal retaliation is known. Retaliation can come in a variety of ways. In the worst-case scenario, an employer could fire a worker after finding that they reported a violation. Other forms of retaliation include demoting or refusing to hire an employee, lowering their salary or refusing to give them a merited bonus, or engaging in other forms of abuse, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination. Consider one of our prescreened employment lawyers in Los Angeles in your Cal Bar Attorney Search.

California's Whistleblower Protection Act

Whistleblowers in California are covered, whether they work for private corporations or for local or state governments. There are many California statutes that refer to cases involving whistleblowers and retaliation.

State workers who disclose illegal government conduct are covered under the California Whistleblower Protection Act. Whistleblowers who disclose attempts to defraud the state of California are protected under the California False Claims Act. Employees who report such illegal behavior are rewarded under California law. Certain industries, such as medicine, have specific whistleblower rights in California. Employees who disclose what they consider to be breaches of state or federal law are protected under California's general whistleblower legislation.

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In addition, federal law contains several anti-retaliation clauses that extend to particular forms of claims. Employees who report financial fraud or violations of federal securities laws are covered under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Whistleblowers are protected under the federal False Claims Act from retaliation if they expose illegal activity by their employer, supervisors, or colleagues. The federal Whistleblower Protection Act covers federal employees who disclose unlawful activity by government employers and subordinates, such as unauthorized use of funds, safety breaches, and violations of environmental legislation such as hazardous waste dumping, among other things.

Retaliation in the Workplace under the FEHA

Employees are protected from retaliation under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the "FEHA") if they choose to do any of the following:

  • Stand against acts of abuse or discrimination in the workplace, as well as an employer's failure to provide required pregnancy/family leave.
  • Report a case of harassment or discrimination.
  • Testify or assist with any FEHA-related proceeding.
  • Request workplace accommodations because of their religious views or observances or because of a disability.
  • Under California employment law, FEHA retaliation occurs when either of the above acts by an employee is a significant motivating factor for adverse employment conduct or unfair treatment against that employee.
  • Retaliation under the False Claims Act (Qui Tam)

Employer retaliation against employees who exercise their rights under the California False Claims Act is also prohibited.

Employees in California may bring a so-called "qui tam" case against an employer who is committing fraud, bribery, or embezzlement of government funds under the False Claims Act. (A "qui tam" case is one brought on behalf of a government agency by a private citizen.)

Proving Incidence of Workplace Retaliation

It can be difficult to prove retaliation, particularly if the retaliation does not amount to wrongful termination. Employers may use neutral reasons to justify such a negative action like refusing a promotion or bonus, or they can say they were unaware of the employee's protected activities. As a result, any whistleblowing or other protected acts should always be recorded. If you're reporting workplace discrimination or seeking a disability accommodation, do so by email, letter, or text to protect yourself from retaliation from your employer.

Employees have the right to report sexual abuse or discrimination without fear of retaliation. Even so, far too many employers retaliate against workers who exercise their legal rights, whether in a subtle or explicit manner. In reality, retaliation cases have increased in recent years, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. With nearly 40,000 workers claiming retaliation, these allegations accounted for 53.8 percent of EEOC grievances in 2019.

Employees must prove that the adverse employment conduct occurred due to their participation in a "protected operation" to win a retaliation suit. Simply put, they claimed their workplace rights – for example, by disclosing sexual assault, sexism, or other wrongdoing – and then had to pay the price. The adverse job decision isn't retaliation because there's a cause-and-effect relationship.

Three primary questions will help you figure out whether there's a strong enough causal link:

1. Is the sequence of events logical?

The chronology of events reveals that the adverse job action was, in fact, retaliation, not just a coincidence. For example, if an employee was demoted before reporting sexual assault, the demotion may not have been punishment for an incident that had not yet occurred.

Remember the retaliation does not always happen right away. It may be postponed (although a lengthy gap makes retaliation harder to prove). Furthermore, it is common for workers to continue to feel it even after the triggering incident has occurred.

2. Was the employee's covered behavior known to the boss or manager?

It's not enough to be on time. Employees must demonstrate that they were fired due to reporting wrongdoing (or engaged in some other protected activity). The employer must have known the employee's protected conduct. The employment decision could not have been influenced by a desire to retaliate if that information had not been available.

3. Were there any justifiable reasons for the retaliation?

Employers also attempt to justify retaliation by inventing new justifications for adverse job action. To hide their tracks, they can invent fictitious justifications. Finding a retaliatory motive often necessitates a deeper investigation.

Even if there is a valid, non-retaliatory reason for the action, it could still be considered retaliation if it would not occur if the employee had not engaged in protected conduct. The crux of the matter is "but-for" causation, and proving it requires a skilled and professional Employment Attorney in Los Angeles.

Retaliation in the Workplace in California: Lawsuits and Damages

Employees who are retaliated against by their employer have a variety of options under California workplace retaliation laws.

Under 1102.5 LC

If you ever believe you have been the target of whistleblower retaliation, then you must reach out to the California Labor and Workplace Development Agency via an online form and your employer via certified mail.

The Labor and Workplace Development Agency may agree to look at your complaint after you file this notice. If the agency refuses, you have the other option of filing a claim in a California Superior Court.

Retaliation under the FEHA Act

Your first move should be to file a report with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) if your employer retaliates against you for exercising your rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Once the DFEH issues a "right to sue" notice, you can sue your employer for workplace retaliation.

Workplace retaliation under the False Claims Act in California

If you are a victim of workplace retaliation, you can bring a lawsuit against your employer right away under the California False Claims Act.

Damages for retaliation in the workplace

Payable damages in a wrongful termination case in California will differ from damages in a workplace retaliation claim. This due to the amount of missed payments and benefits for the plaintiff's work loss is usually included in a wrongful termination claim's damages.

That aside, damages in a workplace retaliation case are more likely to include:

  • Damages for emotional distress caused by the workplace mistreatment, such as physical discomfort, loss of enjoyment of life, and/or anxiety;
  • Damages for professional reputational damage caused by retaliatory adverse job acts (such as demotion, promotion denial, or denial of professional advancement or work opportunities); and/or
  • A retaliatory demotion or rejection of a promotion or increase results in lost salaries.

What does it mean to be subjected to "adverse work action"?

Just a few states have statutes that include redress for discharges. Most anti-retaliation laws give victims of discrimination or "adverse job action" the right to sue. What constitutes a "adverse job action" has been interpreted differently by the courts. Any action that costs the employee money is usually considered an adverse job action. Discharges, of course, cost money to the victim. Demotions and denials of overtime, bonuses, or rewards have the same impact. Formal discipline is widely regarded as a form of retaliation in the workplace. Courts are split on whether a bad assessment, denial of a move, changes in hours or job place, hostile comments, denial of parking rights, and other changes that don't affect a worker's pay would be allowed as a remedy. Discrimination in the workplace is illegal under some rules.

Is it still possible to file a lawsuit if I haven't been fired?

As employees' legal rights have grown, so has the sophistication of bosses seeking retaliation. Rather than firing a whistleblower, they seek out more discreet ways to exert leverage. Promotions and transfers can come and go. Discipline can be improved. Insults can make you feel unwelcome and as though you're an outsider. Isolated events can add up and create a picture that it's time to leave.

Bosses and employees are chasing each other around the country to find out. Staff who speak up for their rights have been protected by the courts using the same doctrines used in sexual assault cases. When a court determines that the employer was attempting to force the employee to leave or that the working conditions were unbearable, the court declares a "constructive discharge" and grants the victim full redress after the employee quits. These doctrines, however, are not yet clear enough to shield anyone who was forced to leave.

How can I show that the protected activity was the cause of the negative outcome?

Direct proof or inference may be used to suggest causation.

The employer was enraged by the protected conduct, as shown by direct evidence. If you or another witness saw a supervisor yelling at someone who reported a breach, this is clear proof of the employer's "animus" toward protected conduct. Similarly, if an employer threatens to fire someone who calls the government or advises workers not to report violations, it is clear proof of retaliation.

Even if there is no clear proof, a worker may have a strong argument. Causation is evident in some situations. The boss storms into the office, yelling about this person who reported a law violation. Norma Rae lifts her hand to declare that she was the one who dialed the number. She is fired on the spot by her manager. The retaliation is obvious due to the timing and personal animus.

What are the deadlines I have set for myself?

Each legislation that offers a remedy often establishes a deadline for filing a formal complaint and initiating compliance action. The "statute of limitations" is how lawyers refer to this time limit. In any case, the time limit necessitates the filing of a lawsuit, which must include a summary of the allegation. "I was fired because I complained about racial discrimination," for example, is a common argument of the adverse action and the law alleged to have been broken.

It must also identify the corporation or persons who broke the anti-retaliation rule, as well as their address and other contact details. On the other hand, each statute specifies how and where the complaint should be lodged, as well as whether it must be mailed or obtained by the deadline and whether it may be updated or supplemented later.

The time limits are shockingly limited in some cases:

  • Contracts with unions may involve filing a grievance within three (3) days of any adverse action.
  • To uphold their civil service rights, state and municipal workers can be given time limits as limited as ten (10) days.
  • According to federal environmental laws, a formal complaint must be filed with OSHA within thirty (30) days of any adverse action.
  • Federal workers who allege EEO violations must file their first report with their agency's EEO officer within 45 days of the alleged discrimination.
  • Other laws impose time limits of 90, 180, or 300 days, or any number of years between one and six years.

When it Leads to a Wrongful Termination

Check this unfair firing guide if you've been dismissed from a job to see if your dismissal was unconstitutional. Any dismissal that is performed in violation of federal, state, or local rules, the terms of an employment agreement, or for reasons that are against public policy is considered unfair termination.


Employees are protected by federal legislation from being fired or treated unfairly because of their age, disability, gender, genetic details, national origin, ethnicity, religion, or sex. Job discrimination based on gender identity or sexuality is also illegal in many states and localities.

  • If you answered "yes" to any of the following questions, you might have a legitimate discrimination-related wrongful termination claim:
  • Is there any clear proof that you were fired for being a victim of discrimination? (This may include comments made directly by your bosses, either orally or in writing)
  • Is there any proof that discriminatory motives exist? (For example, were women the only ones laid off in recent layoffs, or were you fired after your age, religion, or ethnicity were discovered?)
  • Are workers treated differently based on their age, gender, race, or some other protected characteristic? (It could be proof of age discrimination if an employer regularly allows tardiness by their youngest workers to go unpunished but fires a late elderly worker.)
  • Did an employer, boss, or superior say or do something that suggested they could be biased towards certain groups? Were those comments made in front of other people, if so?

Have you heard anything from your boss, supervisor, or superior that suggests he or she prefers one group of workers to another? (An employer who claims that recent college graduates make the best new hires or that he deals best with women, for example, might be showing prejudice towards others.) Were there any witnesses to the statements, and if so?

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The law does not only protect employees from being fired because of their age, gender, race, or other characteristics. Harassment based on certain definitions is also prohibited. Harassment may include, for example, insulting comments regarding a worker's race or gender. Employees can experience a hostile work environment if comments go beyond basic bullying and isolated incidents.

Were such remarks made on a daily basis or in front of other people?

Did your boss make unwanted sexual advances, ask for sexual favors, or try to develop a romantic or sexual relationship with you?

Did a relationship between an employee and an employer result in the employee's termination or negative treatment as a result of the relationship or its end?


Employers are prohibited from firing or otherwise punishing workers who engage in such protected activities. Reporting unlawful conduct, such as discrimination or safety breaches, inside the organization or to outside compliance authorities, is one of the protected activities. They also involve cooperating with authorities looking at possible criminal activity, such as cooperating with minimum wage investigators.

The questions below will assist you in determining whether you have a legitimate argument for unfair termination due to retaliation:

  • Did you report any possible breaches in the workplace to a boss, coworkers, the human resources department, or a compliance agency like OSHA before being fired?
  • If that was the case, did your boss or bosses respond negatively or punish you in some way?
  • Did you take part in an investigation into the company's actions or policies before being fired?
  • Were you prevented from participating or cautioned against it?
  • Have you been reprimanded or disciplined for exercising your legal rights, such as taking unpaid medical leave?

Breach of Contract

Wrongful termination may also occur when a worker is fired in breach of an employment agreement. However, some employees have written contracts, and even those who do not may have an implicit contract based on their employer's words or behavior, or even a comprehensive employee handbook.

If you answered "yes" to any of the following questions, you might be entitled to file a wrongful termination lawsuit based on a violation of the employment contract:

  • Were you working under a formal agreement? If so, did it provide grounds for dismissal or a process for dismissal?
  • Did your boss provide you with a comprehensive employee handbook? Was it comprehensive in terms of termination, discipline, development, and so on?
  • Did your employer, supervisor, or superior make any verbal promises, such as saying your job was "guaranteed" or ensuring your "tenure" at work?
  • Did your employer, supervisor, or superior make any statements indicating that you could only be fired for specific reasons?

After You've Been Fired, Here Are Some Tips.

  • If you've been shot, the steps below can help you improve your situation.
  • Don't act on any bad feelings you have about your boss.
  • For legal advice and representation, contact an employment attorney.
  • If you have an employment contract, familiarize yourself with the terms of the contract.
  • Inquire about the circumstances surrounding your dismissal.
  • Find out who made the decision to shoot you.
  • Obtain a copy of your personnel file by submitting a request.
  • Examine your employer's promises and collect facts to back them up.
  • A severance package should be requested and negotiated.
  • Confirm in writing all arrangements concerning your termination and severance pay.
  • Allowing yourself to be intimidated is a bad idea.
  • Return all company property and meet all other standard termination procedures.

Severance Packages

An employer is not obligated to pay severance pay to an employee unless the employee's employment contract specifies it or the employer's employee handbook or manual states that it is a procedure. In return for a commitment to waive all civil claims against the employer, an employee will be entitled to obtain a severance package. An employment attorney will clarify your choices and help you decide if you should pursue a severance package or a wrongful termination lawsuit.

If you and your employment attorney decide that negotiating a severance agreement is the best course of action, you'll need a negotiation plan. Here are some pointers:

  • When you're fired, keep grounded.
  • Take some time to consider any offers made by the employer.
  • Any terms should be confirmed in writing by your employer.
  • Do not consider the first offer made by the employer.
  • If at all practicable, decline an employer's offer to leave rather than be fired.
  • Make every effort to remain on the payroll for as long as possible.
  • Negotiate with your employer to keep your medical and dental benefits going while you're on severance pay.
  • Be certain that the severance package is not conditional on finding new work.

Why Are Settlements for Wrongful Termination So Common?

The vast majority of wrongful termination cases never make it to court. Many lawsuits are resolved ahead of time. Given the highly volatile existence of civil trials, mediation is often seen as the best choice for both parties.

One of the most difficult challenges for the dismissed employee is demonstrating that the employee was fired for illegal reasons, such as race, gender, whistleblowing, or reporting abuse. Employers also respond with evidence of ostensibly legitimate grounds for termination, such as poor results. Employees win about half of their unfair firing lawsuits, according to a study from the 1990s.

Employers, too, have their own reasons for settling. Wrongful termination trials can disclose potentially damaging details about a business, in addition to the complexity of a trial. Even when employees successfully defend themselves, wrongful termination trials can reveal potentially damaging information about a company.

How Much Are Wrongful Termination Claims Worth?

A wrongful termination's monetary value is determined by a number of factors that aim to assess how much damage was caused as a result of the dismissal. The following are some of the most common considerations considered when determining the value of a claim:

Loss of Wages

The total amount of earnings lost by the employee from the time of termination to the present. A plaintiff has a responsibility to minimize these costs, such as by looking for a new career. Any interim benefits, such as new work wages or unemployment benefits, are subtracted from the previous pay total. In certain cases, such as when the employee has been unable to find new jobs by the time of trial or settlement, future salary loss can also be determined.

Benefits that have been lost

When calculating missed profits, the lack of benefits is also taken into account. For example, if a fired employee is required to pay for their own health benefits after termination, the employer can be held responsible for these out-of-pocket costs. Fringe advantages, such as the lack of stock options, are also possible.

Emotional Distress

The expense of emotional anguish as a result of being fired without cause. Employees who have suffered anxiety, depression, or other emotional distress as a result of their termination may be entitled to compensation. In situations where the alleged acts were particularly egregious, such as allegations of abuse or prejudice, recovering from emotional distress is most likely.

Other Factors Affecting Settlements for Wrongful Termination

Settlements can be affected by additional factors in addition to the monetary value of a wrongful termination lawsuit. Many employees, for example, pursue cases not only to recover lost wages but also to see justice or personal vindication. A satisfactory settlement can provide validation and closure for workers who have been fired as a result of discrimination or retaliation. Some seek changes in corporate policies in addition to punitive penalties to deter further wrongdoings.

Employers who think they have done nothing wrong can also want to stop settling so that similar claims do not arise in the future. Employers whose legal fees are covered by their insurance could be more likely to file lawsuits.

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