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Backing up an allegation of retaliation

Federal and California laws provide you with certain protections when it comes to your treatment at work. You have the right to a workplace free from harassment and discrimination.

If you encounter these types of behaviors when interacting with managers, supervisors or co-workers, you have the right to lodge a complaint in accordance with the policies and procedures that your employer has established. If, after you make a complaint, you begin to feel as though your employer is retaliating against you for it, you may also have a second claim based on retaliation.

When are adverse actions by your employer viewed as retaliation?

In order to prevail in an allegation of retaliation, you must have engaged in a protected activity for which your employer responded by taking adverse actions against you. Protected activities include participating in equal employment opportunity processes in some manner, or opposing conduct you believe to be unlawful from an EEO standpoint. These types of protected activities include the following:

  • Filing a complaint with management over pay disparities
  • Threatening to complain about harassment or discrimination against you or others
  • Complaining about harassment or discrimination against you or others
  • Making a request for reasonable disability or religious accommodations
  • Providing information for an internal EEO-related matter
  • Gathering evidence or information in advance of making an EEO-related complaint
  • Refusing to obey a discriminatory order
  • Advising an employer on EEO-related compliance
  • Resisting sexual advances
  • Intervening to protect others from sexual advances

You do not have to use any special language to make it clear that you were involved in a protected activity because you believed that certain actions and behaviors violated the law in good faith. It just needs to be clear that you were doing so. The harassing or discriminatory actions or behaviors do not need to reach the level of being unlawful for your outspokenness to receive legal protections.

The behavior or actions you consider as retaliation from your employer must meet a certain standard. Your employer's response needs to be enough that a reasonable person would think twice before engaging in a protected activity. This means that what constitutes as retaliation may be taken on a case-by-case basis, which makes your providing the appropriate evidence, facts and other information as you move forward with your claim absolutely essential.

If you have any questions about retaliation or your rights regarding a claim of retaliation, talk with an experienced employment law attorney.

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