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California Employment Lawyers > Blog > Employment > Retaliation At Work Is Illegal And You Can Sue If It Happens To You

Retaliation At Work Is Illegal And You Can Sue If It Happens To You


If you are being sexually harassed at work, the effect can be demoralizing and crushing. If your complaints are ignored, or your employer refuses to act on your valid complaints of harassment, that can be even more demoralizing. But at the height of soul crushing and devastating events, must be complaining about sexual harassment at work, and then you are the one who ends up getting fired.

How can that happen? The answer is retaliation.

What is Retaliation?

Although illegal, many employers will try to “get back” at you for making a sexual harassment claim. Maybe it is out of anger, or maybe they just see you as a “problem” or a “complainer.” Either way, all you did is file a legitimate complaint about sexual harassment which you are legally entitled to make, and you ended up being fired (or having some other penalty at work).

Sometimes, the retaliation is not against you for making an actual complaint. Often, the retaliation also happens when employees reject sexual advances from other employees, or refuse to go on a date with a co-worker, and then they are punished at work for the rejection.

Retaliation is Illegal

It is illegal for an employer in California to retaliate against you for making a sexual harassment claim or complaint, or for rejecting sexual advances towards you. It is also illegal to retaliate against an employee for cooperating with, or giving testimony or information about, a sexual harassment claim. That includes cooperating in any criminal, civil, or EEOC investigation.

The Use of Pretext

Often, employers will hide the retaliation; they won’t give you a reason why, but you may find your work duties are altered, you are passed over for a promotion, excluded from training or meetings, given a poor work review, or you are denied certain work benefits. The employer will often give other reasons–called pretext–to justify the retaliatory action. They will pretend that you are being excluded or demoted not because of your rejection of a sexual advance, but because you are a “bad” employee.

Of course, to prove retaliation, the initial event–your reporting of the harassment, or giving testimony in a harassment investigation – must be made earnestly, and in good faith.

Retaliation in Other Areas

Retaliation doesn’t just happen in sexual harassment cases–you can also be retaliated against for making disability claims, or discrimination claims. Retaliation is illegal anytime it is made against you for asserting your legal right, or for reporting illegal activity. The same laws and concepts apply–you simply cannot be punished in any way at work, for standing up for and enforcing your state or federal employment law rights.

Retaliation carries severe penalties, and aggrieved employees can sue for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

Contact the San Jose employment law lawyers at the Costanzo Law Firm today if you feel that your employer has done things to “get back” at you for asserting your legal rights, or for making a valid complaint.




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