Finding the Right Retaliation Defense Attorney in California

Employment retaliation allegations are a significant threat to California employers.  The state’s employment laws strongly favor employees and employee rights.  When employees couch complaints in terms of retaliation, employers are forced to defend legitimate employment decisions.  Working with the right retaliation defense attorney in California can help employers successfully dispute costly and time-consuming retaliation complaints.

When Do You Need a Retaliation Defense Attorney in California?

California employers are often faced with retaliation claims that challenge their business decisions.   At what point should an employer consult a retaliation defense attorney?  Ideally, employers should work with a California employer defense attorney before an urgent need for counsel arises. 

A skilled workplace retaliation defense lawyer can help you establish clear policies for making and documenting employment decisions throughout your organization.  Defending retaliation claims in California is an uphill battle. For an employer, understanding the law and being prepared are key.

What is Protected Activity?

To understand what conduct could be retaliatory, employers first must understand what employee activity is protected.  The California Department of Industrial Relations defines protected activity to mean an employee’s exercise of a right that is protected by law.  These rights are set out in California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and in various federal equal employment opportunity laws

Following are some examples of protected employee activities in California:

  • Filing a complaint alleging violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
  • Participating as a witness in or otherwise cooperating with an investigation of a legal violation.
  • Participating in unionization efforts.
  • Blowing the whistle on wrongdoing by an employer.
  • Making a complaint of safety violations.
  • Reporting wage and hour violations.
  • Filing a wage complaint under the California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA).

A Retaliation Defense Attorney in California Can Help Employers Understand Protections for Employees

The list above is by no means exhaustive.  The California Labor Code generally protects employees from being terminated or otherwise retaliated against in violation of public policy.  It also specifies certain types of protected employee activities that may serve as a basis for a retaliation claim:

  • Conduct opposing workplace harassment or discrimination.
  • Requests for workplace accommodations based on religious beliefs or a disability.
  • Using family leave time pursuant to California law.
  • Reporting or refusing to engage in illegal conduct.
  • Complaining of workplace discrimination or harassment.

In short, California law takes a very broad view of employee rights.  An experienced workplace retaliation defense lawyer can assist your company in identifying potential risks associated with employee protections.

What Employer Conduct Constitutes Retaliation?

Retaliation is essentially the act of taking an adverse employment action against an employee in response to that employee having engaged in a protected activity. That sounds pretty simple and like something employers would say that they would never do. 

In the world of retaliation complaints, however, retaliation can be in the eye of the beholder.  An employee anticipating an adverse employment decision may file a complaint as a peremptory strike.  The employer may then fear that a subsequent, legitimate adverse employment decision against the employee will be attacked by a retaliation claim.  Defending the employment decision then becomes a battle of evidence and credibility.

What Makes Retaliation
Claims Such a Risk?

Several factors make retaliation claims both prolific in California and risky for the state’s employers.

First, the breadth of opportunity for employees to allege retaliation makes defending a retaliation claim incredibly difficult for employers.  Current and former employees may bring retaliation claims, making the pool of potential claimants deep.

Additionally, the list of protected activities is seemingly endless.  This is especially true given that the Labor Code permits employees to oppose an adverse employment action by vaguely alleging that it violates public policy.  This opens the door for an ever-widening range of activities to be cast as protected activity.  

Employees may even be entitled to legal protection if they were not actually engaging in protected activity.  Workers may only need to have had a good faith belief that the activity was protected to gain the protection of the law.

The process of investigating retaliation claims and entering orders against employers in California also favors employees.  For example, as of 2017, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office can investigate retaliation and discrimination claims as part of wage claims or other proceedings.  The Commissioner’s Office also has authority to seek relief on behalf of an employee before the investigation is completed and before making findings of discrimination.

Finally, defending a retaliation claim in California can be costly.  Aside from the normal time and cost of defending against these claims, California employers may also be subject to daily fines for failing to reinstate an employee by court order, punitive damages and the Labor Commissioner’s Office attorneys’ fees if an employment decision is ultimately determined to be retaliatory.  

A Retaliation Defense Attorney in California Can Help Employers Know What to Do Next

With stakes this high, the competing realities in retaliation complaints are best managed by a retaliation defense attorney in California.  California employers need guidance from experienced counsel to establish thorough policies to guide managers and supervisors and to provide guidance in defending retaliation claims.

The best defense starts before an employee makes a complaint:  documentation is the name of the game in defending a retaliation claim.  To stay on top of the documentation needed to withstand unjustified complaints of retaliation, employers are well-served by a California employer defense attorney. 

The essence of a retaliation claim is that an employer took an adverse employment action against an employee because the employee did something the employer did not like but had a legal right to do.  Employers who document the reasons for employment actions as they arise have a better chance of successfully defending a retaliation claim in California.

Even with adequate documentation to support an employment decision, employers sometimes need an experienced California employer defense attorney to litigate an employee’s claim.  An attorney focused on employer-side defense work has the skills and understanding needed to navigate the administrative and court hearings that decide these fact-sensitive issues.

The Law Offices of Susan A. Rodriguez, APC: Your Retaliation Defense Attorney in California

At the Law Offices of Susan A. Rodriguez, APC, we have nearly 30 years of experience successfully advising clients on preventing and defending retaliation claims in California both in and out of the courtroom.  Our long-standing clients rely on our assistance with policy-making and training as well as litigation needs.  Our decades of experience, results and commitment to accessible and open communication keep them coming back.

Let the attorneys at the Law Offices of Susan A. Rodriguez, APC put their knowledge and skills to work for you. From preparing to litigate a retaliation claim to providing experienced guidance for your supervisors, managers and human resource staff to effectively document employee performance and discipline, we are your retaliation defense attorney in California. Contact us at (213) 943-1323 or visit us online to schedule an appointment.

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