California workers who wish to complain to their employer about a hostile work environment may need to first make sure that they can do so as part of a protected class. Many employees may not realize that they are not necessarily protected against bullying at work. This also means that people are not protected against retaliation and could be fired for reporting that harassment.
However, if the person is a member of a protected class and can frame the situation as being related to that, there may be a possibility of alleging discrimination. There are federal and state laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of attributes such as age, sex, race, religion and national origin. People are also protected against bullying or retaliation due to taking advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act. Whistle-blowers are protected as well.
Employers are also prohibited against retaliating against employees who join together to improve their work conditions. Therefore, if the harassment can be framed as being reported with coworkers or on behalf of coworkers, the National Labor Relations Act may protect workers.
California offers some additional protections to workers. For example, a person cannot be harassed because of political activities or status as a victim of domestic violence. However, there are a few exceptions. Businesses with only a few employees may not be required to abide by these laws. While employees who feel that they have faced harassment at work are often urged to report it to their supervisor or human resources department first, they might want to consult with a lawyer beforehand to make sure that they are protected or to discuss strategies that they might use in addressing the issue.