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How to Prove Retaliation in the Workplace

workplace retaliation claim

As an employee, knowing your rights within the workplace is pivotal. For example, not only are you protected from discrimination in the workplace, but it’s illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for complaining about discrimination. In fact, you are legally protected from retaliation for exercising your rights and engaging in a wide range of lawful activities. But what can you do if you’ve been the victim of retaliation at work? How do you prove it? Below we look at this important topic in more detail. If you are an employee or former employee in Southern California and you believe you were unfairly treated in the workplace, contact Ochoa & Calderón to discuss your case with a skilled and experienced Riverside employment retaliation lawyer.

Elements of a Retaliation Claim

To bring a successful retaliation claim, an employee typically must prove the following elements:

  1. Protected Activity: The employee engaged in a protected activity—like reporting harassment or discrimination.
  2. Adverse Action: The employer took adverse employment action against the employee—such as demotion, termination, or salary reduction.
  3. Causal Link: There’s a causal connection between the protected activity and the employer’s adverse action.

Activities Protected from Retaliation

Under California law, several activities are protected from retaliation. These include:

  • Whistleblowing: Reporting potential violations of state or federal laws by the employer to supervising bodies.
  • Refusing to Partake in Illegal Activities: An employee refusing to engage in activities they believe are illegal.
  • Requesting or Taking Family Medical Leave: This includes time off under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) or the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Filing a Wage Claim: Addressing unpaid wages or overtime under the California Labor Code.
  • Reporting Discrimination or Harassment: This is protected under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) as well as federal laws like Title VII and others.

Direct Evidence of Retaliation

Direct evidence is a straightforward way to show retaliation. Some examples include:

  1. Explicit Admissions: An employer or supervisor admitting they are taking action because of the employee’s protected activity. E.g., “You’re being demoted because you reported safety violations.”
  2. Written Evidence: Memos, emails, or texts showing retaliatory intent.
  3. Witness Statements: Colleagues or other individuals who heard or saw the employer act with a retaliatory motive.

Indirect Evidence of Retaliation

While direct evidence offers a clear link, sometimes employees only have indirect evidence to rely upon. Some examples include:

  1. Timing: Adverse actions taken shortly after the employee engages in a protected activity can suggest retaliation.
  2. Treatment Change: A sudden change in how an employee is treated after engaging in a protected activity, like being excluded from meetings or receiving unfair evaluations.
  3. Inconsistent Reasons: If the employer provides shifting reasons for the adverse action, it can be a sign of a cover-up.
  4. Comparison to Peers: If an employee is treated less favorably than similarly situated colleagues after engaging in a protected activity, it may indicate retaliation.

Assert Your Rights With the Help of Experienced Riverside Employment Lawyers

Proving retaliation in the workplace requires understanding the elements of the claim, identifying protected activities, and distinguishing between direct and indirect evidence. Ochoa & Calderón is committed to safeguarding the rights of Riverside’s workforce. If you believe you’ve been a victim of workplace retaliation, our dedicated team can provide the expert guidance and representation you deserve. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 throughout Southern California for a free consultation.

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