RETALIATION AFTER FILING A COMPLAINT ABOUT HARASSMENT ISN’T LEGAL

We have often discussed how employees should never have to deal with sexual harassment. All forms of sexual harassment at work are illegal. Despite that fact, some employees still deal with the harassment just because they don’t feel comfortable reporting it. Some employees think they will be retaliated against for making complaints about harassment. What those employees might not realize is that there are protections for whistleblowers on both the federal and state levels of the law.

We don’t want you to have to deal with harassment, and we don’t want you to worry about retaliation. If you need to file a complaint about sexual harassment or if you have been retaliated against because you filed a complaint, let us help you. We can work with you to find out what happened and to help you learn your options for proceeding.

No matter what form of sexual harassment you were subjected to and no matter what manner of retaliation you were a victim of, we can help you. If you were treated unfairly after filing a complaint, you might have a claim regarding retaliation. If you were demoted, fired, given unfavorable assignments or had a cut in pay after filing a complaint for sexual harassment, we can look into your case.

All adverse treatment after you make a complaint about sexual harassment should be scrutinized. While you aren’t covered for actions resulting in legitimate disciplinary actions, you are protected for adverse reactions that are done simply as a way to punish you because you filed a complaint. Let us help you determine if you have a case and how to proceed if you do have a valid claim under California law.

DOES RETALIATION HAVE TO BE DONE ON PURPOSE?

We have discussed retaliation and how it affects employees in the United States. Those posts might have some of our California readers with some questions about retaliation. In a nutshell, retaliation means trying to get back at a worker for making a complaint about something, such as sexual harassment.

Does an action have to be done on purpose to qualify as retaliation?

Action taken a person who has filed a complaint doesn’t have to be taken with the purpose of retaliating against that person in order to be classified as retaliation. If an action is construed as retaliation, it might qualify as retaliation. An example would be moving a worker to another shift to get the worker away from the person who allegedly harassed the worker. The move had good intentions, but might still be considered retaliation.

Can employees who complain be disciplined?

Employers are allowed to discipline employees who file complaints if they are disciplining the employee for a valid reason. That means that an employer can’t discipline the employee because of filing the complaint. However, if the employee misses a shift, for example, the employer can discipline the employee.

Can employees be disciplined for filing false complaints?

Just because a complaint wasn’t truthful doesn’t mean the employer should retaliate against the employee. The truth of the complaint isn’t a factor when it comes to retaliation. That doesn’t give employees the right to lie to an employer, but it does protect employees who file a claim they feel is justified but is later determined not to be justified.

Those who feel they have been retaliated against at work after filing a complaint should learn about their options for dealing with the retaliation. Employers shouldn’t be allowed to get away with retaliation under any circumstances.

Source: FindLaw, “Workplace Retaliation” Jan. 07, 2015

WHAT IS WRONGFUL TERMINATION IN CALIFORNIA?

Some people think that if you get fired from a job in California, 0you don’t have any recourse possible against the employer. While that is true in some cases because of the at-will relationship between employers and employees, there are some instances in which being fired would fall under the legal umbrella of wrongful termination. Knowing some basic facts about wrongful termination might help you to determine if your being relieved of your position was legal or illegal.

Can I be fired for making a complaint about discrimination?

Generally, you cannot be fired for filing a complaint about discrimination. California, as well as other states, have laws that forbid discrimination in the workplace. There are also federal laws in place to stop people from being fired because of any form of discrimination. If you are let go because you brought a discrimination complaint against the company, that is considered retaliation, which falls under the wrongful termination laws.

Can I be fired for refusing to do something illegal?

In most cases, being fired for refusing illegal activities would be considered wrongful termination. Illegal activities aren’t limited to those that involve activities such as selling drug or laundering money. Illegal activities can also be things like failing to follow established safety guidelines.

Can I be fired for taking a leave from my job?

Employers can’t fire you for taking a leave from your job as long as the leave falls under certain laws and you executed the leave in the proper manner. You have rights that are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act as long as your case meets the requirements set forth in the law. Taking time off to vote or handle military duty matters are some other examples of what shouldn’t lead to you being fired from your job.

It is important to note that specific cases are likely to have very specific points that might make the matter of proving wrongful termination a little more complex. For this reason, anyone who feels like they have been wrongfully terminated should learn more about the laws that might apply to their case.

Source: FindLaw, “Was I Wrongfully Discharged From My Job?” Sep. 04, 2014

OFFICERS ALLEGE RETALIATORY ACTIONS AFTER INMATE ALTERCATION

Two California corrections officers accused of perpetrating an inmate assault have been relieved of their duties by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office. The two men, ages 28 and 30, lost their jobs after allegedly abusing an inmate who was facing allegations of rape and murder. Although law enforcement officials have supported the firings, family members of the officers say that the pair was fired after filing a complaint about unsafe conditions.

So far, both of the men have pleaded not guilty to charges of assault by a public officer in connection with the altercation. They could spend as long as three years in custody if convicted. Their next upcoming court date is scheduled for mid-May.

The two officers are accused of using excessive force when the alleged victim began to resist during a transfer from his holding cell. One of the men was able to wrestle that victim to the ground, though he quickly called for backup because he was struggling. The other defendant is accused of arriving on that scene and delivering three aggressive knee strikes to the victim’s legs. The incident was caught on camera, and it lasted for approximately 15 seconds.

Witnesses to the incident said that the officers used appropriate force when subduing the victim. A sheriff’s investigation, however, found that the pair used excessive force. That assertion came even after two California Highway Patrol officers who were witnesses to the incident have allegedly testified in court that they didn’t believe the corrections officer had done anything wrong. However, the victim complained of pain in his upper body several days after the incident. He transported to the hospital, but it’s not known if the victim was alleging that his pain or injuries were related to the incident with the corrections officers.

Even government employers have been known to retaliate against workers who are involved in filing a complaint about workplace safety or other concerns. California attorneys know that these employees have rights that should be protected in court and in the workplace. People should not lose their jobs if they follow workplace policy; these two men argue that their actions were correct, and they are supported by several other sources. An employment attorney may be able to help such victims learn more about their legal options after retaliatory actions such as a pay cut or wrongful termination.

Source: Santa Barbara Independent, “Sheriff Fires Jail Guards Accused of Assaulting Inmate” Tyler Haden, Apr. 10, 2014

UTILITY WORKER GETS $1.3 MILLION FOR RETALIATORY DISCHARGE

A former utility worker has received $1.3 million in a California wrongful termination suit. The worker, who had been employed by SDG&E, claimed that he was a victim of retaliatory discharge after he revealed that the company was unfairly targeting households in the low-income category. Those clients were targeted because they provided additional money through fees related to delinquent bills.

News reports show that the man complained about the unfair practices. Lower-income populations in central San Diego were being targeted for the official delinquency notices, which can result in customers being charged $9 per notice. Those notices were hand-delivered only in low-income areas, according to courtroom documents.

The plaintiff in this case said he is pleased that the utility will be required to stop its discriminatory practices. He said that the wrongful termination claim was not simply because of the money; the man actually wanted to make a difference and blow the whistle on unethical activities. He said he is happy that the jury understood the implications of the utility company’s alleged misdeeds. It appears that SDG&E intends to appeal the decision, claiming that the man lost his job after failing to comply with corporate policies.

Workers who have the courage to pursue filing a complaint against illegal activity should not be subject to retaliatory discharge. Those victims may be entitled to financial compensation and other damages, which could even include getting their jobs back. A California employment attorney may be able to assist these individuals with civil cases against unscrupulous employers, allowing victims to pursue wrongful termination claims and other complaints. Workers should not have to suffer financial hardship because of the illegal and unethical actions of their employers.

Source: KFMB 760, “Ex-SDG&E employee awarded $2.1M in lawsuit” No author given, Mar. 26, 2014

HOSPITAL WORKER TURNED PATIENT SUFFERS DOWNSIZING AFTER SURGERY

A California hospital administrator who suffered as a patient and then reported the misdeeds claims that he suffered retaliation after a botched surgery. Reports show that the man, who had worked for Kaiser for nearly three decades, suffered serious injury when he underwent an outpatient bronchoscopy procedure. However, major complications that occurred during that procedure left the man with serious injuries that required several more surgeries to repair. When the man revealed several patient safety concerns because of the experience, he became the target of retaliatory actions.

The man said that he met with the hospital’s senior vice president of quality and risk management during the summer, about four months after he was able to return to work. The man said he broached concerns including lack of appropriate staff and resources, poor emergency transportation options and violation of medically accepted standards of care. Further, the man alleged that he had not been informed when his treatment deviated from acceptable care protocols. In addition to meeting with the higher administrator, the man also submitted his claims in writing.

Instead of working together to solve the problems, Kaiser administrators forced the man to remain silent about the surgery concerns while at work. He was fired in late October after his position was reportedly eliminated. The plaintiff in this case has filed lawsuits for wrongful termination, along with violations of state safety and health provisions.

Workers who are simply attempting to improve the quality of service provided by their own organizations should not be victimized by such unfair actions. Employees who have been punished by demotion or downsizing because of filing a complaint may benefit from the help of a California employment attorney. These professionals may provide additional information about legal and financial options after a retaliatory incident.

Source: Courthouse New Service, “Nearly Killed, then Fired, Kaiser Manager Says” Tish Kraft, Mar. 21, 2014.

OIL COMPANY ACCUSED OF RETALIATORY ACTIONS, RACISM

California employees have the right to express their unique cultural heritage by wearing work-appropriate clothing that suits their tastes. As long as the clothing complies with corporate dress code, everyone should be permitted to wear culture-specific clothing that makes them feel comfortable. One California oil executive claims that she was ousted from the company, though, because she chose to wear non-traditional outfits to work. Even though the woman’s clothing ostensibly complied with corporate policy, she was repeatedly told by supervisors that her personal appearance both offended and intimidated other workers. The woman is seeking compensation for the retaliatory actions that ultimately cost her job.

The suit alleges that supervisors and managers told the woman that she made her colleagues uncomfortable because she chose to wear traditional African garb known as a dashiki. The woman also chose to braid her hair in a variety of styles that suited her taste; this was similarly scrutinized. In fact, those same supervisors – who replaced her with a less-experienced white man – told her that she should limit her cultural clothing to “culture day” or Black History Month celebrations.

Even more egregiously, workers in a petroleum plant reportedly tied a noose and hung it while the woman was visiting the plant. British Petroleum argues that the rope was misinterpreted, and workers had simply been using it for practice tying knots, but the woman still felt threatened because of the negative implications of the symbol. A variety of other offensive comments also preceded the woman’s dismissal from work, which was reportedly initiated because she did not get along with others on the job. Interestingly, peers had provided positive feedback about the woman just months before during a comprehensive performance review.

Women and minorities deserve the same access to quality professions as all other Americans. In this case, the woman was so harassed that she was ultimately forced out of her workplace simply because she was seen wearing ethnic clothing and filing a complaint against her workplace oppressors. These personal attacks on an employee’s character or job record are never warranted, and they should be punished.

Source: 
www.courthousenews.com, “BP accused of racism by fired top executive” Jamie Ross, Dec. 05, 2013