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Employer Retaliation Attorney in Sherman Oaks, California

Retaliation is the single largest category of workplace complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the regulatory and enforcement arm of the federal government when it comes to anti-discrimination and harassment statutes. The EEOC enforces the nation’s laws regarding workplace discrimination, starting with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and extending forward to subsequent laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and many others.

If you’ve experienced retaliation at work for participating in an activity protected by the nation’s employment laws in or around Sherman Oaks, California, or anywhere in the San Fernando Valley, contact The Sweeney Law Firm, APC. Our employment law attorney will listen to your story, investigate your situation, and advise you of your legal options. You don’t need to accept retaliation at work merely for fear of losing your job. Your rights deserve protection.

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What Is Retaliation?

Starting with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the U.S. government has carved out standards of employee conduct that it considers to be “protected activity.” In a broad stroke, the EEOC defines protected activity as either participating in an EEO process or reasonably opposing conduct made unlawful by an EEO law. EEO means equal employment opportunity.

Current EEOC Commissioner Charlotte Burrows amplifies this by saying her agency prohibits “retaliation against individuals who have reasonably opposed discrimination, or who have filed a charge, served as a witness, or otherwise participated in an EEO proceeding.”

Protected activities may include:

  • Filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, or being a witness in a charge filed

  • Reporting acts of discrimination, including harassment, to a supervisor

  • Answering questions during an investigation of alleged harassment

  • Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination

  • Resisting sexual advances, or siding with others to protect them against such advances

  • Requesting accommodation for a disability or religious practice

  • Asking others, including managers, about salary issues in an effort to disclose discriminatory salary practices

What Form Does Retaliation Take?

Wrongful termination, though the most extreme form of retaliation, is not the only way employers retaliate against employees. In general, the EEOC considers any “materially adverse action” to constitute retaliation.

Retaliation can thus consist of something as seemingly routine as denying a vacation request. It can also consist of passing over the person for promotion, or relocating the employee’s workstation to a remote area of isolation. Suddenly giving negative performance evaluations without justification is another way to retaliate. Being demoted, or having your hours changed to the detriment of you and your family, are other means to retaliate.

Proving Retaliation

The first step if you suspect retaliation is to file a charge with the EEOC, which will investigate if it feels the allegation is valid. The EEOC has many tools at its disposal, including on-site investigations, mediation, sanctions, and even lawsuits.

Until you file a charge with the EEOC and it issues you a right to sue letter, however, you’re essentially in a waiting game. If they don’t respond to your complaint within 180 days, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that you can then initiate legal action.

California law also protects against retaliation under various sections of the state’s Labor Code and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). You can file your retaliation complaint with the state’s Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFHE), but again, you will have to wait for a notice of right to sue before proceeding with legal action.

To prevail in a retaliation lawsuit, you must show that:

  • You participated in a protected activity

  • You suffered a materially adverse consequence for your participation

  • The adverse consequence occurred because of your participation

No Shield for Poor Performance

It’s important to remember that filing a retaliation claim will not exonerate you for any poor performance that led to your demotion, termination, or other adverse action. That’s why the third point of proof is to show that your adverse consequence resulted because of your participation in a protected activity.

Whistleblower Protections

If you are retaliated against because you blow the proverbial whistle—you report your employer for safety and health violations, financial malfeasance, environmental abuse, or any of a myriad other violations—you need to file your complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which enforces the nation’s more than 20 whistleblower protection laws.

California also enforces various whistleblower protection provisions found in the state’s Labor Code. If you feel you’ve been retaliated against as a whistleblower, you can file with the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, which may choose to investigate. If it doesn’t choose to investigate, it must notify you within 65 days, at which point you may be able to sue.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

Both the federal government and the state of California offer legal remedies for retaliation. Which route to take can often involve various considerations, including which route offers the quickest possibility of resolution. If you’ve been retaliated against for participating in a protected activity, contact us at The Sweeney Law Firm, APC. Our attorney is well-versed in retaliation cases. We proudly serve clients in and around Sherman Oaks, including Northridge, Van Nuys, and the entire San Fernando Valley.