The dictionary defines “retaliation” as “the act of doing someone harm in return for actual or perceived injuries or wrongs; an instance of reprisal, requital, or revenge.” Although retaliation is intangible most folks immediately sense it when it happens to them. The same is true in the workplace. When a supervisor or coworker tries to harm am employee in response to something, the employee instinctively know that he is being retaliated against. While there are countless ways in which retaliation takes place in the workplace, not all retaliation is actionable.

To establish a prima facie case of retaliation in California an employee must generally show three things: (1) that the employee engaged in a protected activity; (2) that the employer subjected the employee to an adverse employment action; and (3) that there is a causal link between the protected activity and the employer’s action. What is “protected activity” you ask? The answer to this question is “it depends.” In California there are many different laws which make it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees. For example, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for complaining about harassment or discrimination on the basis of a protected characteristic (such as for example sex or disability). The California Whistleblower Statute makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for complaining to government authorities about illegal activities.

The best way for any employee to figure out if the retaliation in the workplace he is experiencing is illegal is to consult an experienced employment lawyer. An attorney well versed in employment law, should be able to quickly determine if the employer’s conduct is illegal, and chart out the proper course of action to protect the employee and his rights.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is not legal advice. The Akopyan Law Firm does not provide legal advice unless and until it is formally retained, and an attorney client contract is signed. Each case is unique. The laws may or may not apply to your particular situation. This should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions may have laws and regulations that differ substantially from one another. The Akopyan Law Firm does not provide legal services, or practice law outside of the State of California. You should always consult an attorney in your jurisdiction regarding any specific legal issue. If you have any questions about your rights, it is best to speak with an experienced employment attorney.