Verdicts from various California Courts, as well as settlements that have been reached between employees and employers of all sizes, demonstrate the risk of retaliation liability and retaliation claims that can occur if an employee files a formal complaint about mistreatment. Learn more about the possible value of a retaliation claim by browsing our key points below.
Even when employers can prove that discrimination, harassment, or another type of employment claim doesn't arise to the level of being illegal, employers might still be found liable because the person who made the complaint suffered adverse employment consequences after speaking up.
Key Points - Table of Contents
- Sample Retaliation Verdicts
- Laws Protecting Employees From Retaliation
- What Makes A Strong Retaliation Case?
- What Are The Three Elements Of A Retaliation Claim?
- What Is A Good Example Of Retaliation?
- Do You Need Help Filing A Retaliation Claim Against Your Employer?
Sample Retaliation Verdicts
According to a review of recent jury verdicts and settlements for workplace retaliation cases, employees who file claims in good faith, even if their claims end up being unfounded, are shielded from employer retaliation.
Some of the verdicts and settlements cited in the review include:
- A real estate firm was found guilty of firing a general manager at their California facility after she reported break and overtime violations. The jury verdict in this case was $4.6 million.
- A correctional officer who claimed they were discriminated against and harassed because of their sexual orientation and disability was awarded $800,000 plus attorney fees. Although the correctional officer also claimed the supervisors retaliated against her for complaining about their actions, the jury ultimately decided that the employer's actions didn't amount to unlawful harassment or discrimination. Despite this, the jury awarded the officer $800,000 for emotional distress related to the retaliation claim.
- Two sales employees who claimed they complained to their employer about wage and hour practices but were fired for speaking up, were awarded more than $800,000 by a jury verdict.
- An employee who complained about inappropriate behavior by a supervisor that was directed towards women, won a $1.6 million verdict. The employee complained that the supervisor coerced women to go to strip clubs and also so subjected others in the workplace to inappropriate sexual comments about female employees. After the employee complained to upper management, they were denied a promotion shortly thereafter and eventually fired.
While the sample verdicts and settlements above may not represent typical outcomes, only an experienced employment lawyer can appropriately evaluate your case.
Laws Protecting Employees From Retaliation
All employment laws prohibit employers from taking adverse employment action against employees for engaging in protected activity. Protected activity includes complaining about or opposing practices forbidden by the statutes and participating in investigations of prohibited conduct. Adverse employment action includes wrongful termination, failure to promote, punitive transfers, and other actions that have a material impact on the terms and conditions of employment. Employees who have been terminated for practicing a protected activity under California law may have a claim for a retaliation lawsuit.
What Makes A Strong Retaliation Case?
Winning a retaliation case can be daunting, but it is possible when you have strong evidence on your side. Your case is only as strong as the evidence you have. In other words, you need to substantiate your claim with facts and evidence. That is when your case gains strength and credibility.
Here are some of the types of evidence that make a strong workplace retaliation case:
- Proof that you experienced unlawful harassment or discrimination. Reference our article on "Have I been sexually Harassed at Work" to read possible indicators of sexual harassment.
- Evidence that shows you engaged in a protected workplace activity
- Proof that your employer took adverse action against you in response to you engaging in a protected workplace activity
- Evidence that you suffered damages and losses because of such adverse or retaliatory action such as wrongful termination, demotion, salary cut, transfer, etc.
What holds weight in workplace retaliation cases is whether you, as an employee, saw or experienced behavior or action (or in some cases lack of action) on the part of the employer that was unlawful, and were punished for reporting it.
Such evidence may be presented in the form of emails, memos, documents such as employee reviews or other types of correspondence. It is crucial that you carefully preserve such evidence in a location where you can readily access it at any time. An experienced Los Angeles workplace retaliation lawyer will be able to help you collect, compile and present evidence in a powerful manner.
What Are The Three Elements Of A Retaliation Claim?
One of the most challenging things about workplace retaliation cases is proving or showing evidence that your employer retaliated against you. While you may have evidence to show that your employer took adverse action against you such as firing or demoting you, in order to prove retaliation, you must show that actions taken against you were intended as retaliation.
Here are three elements you will need to establish in a retaliation claim:
1. You engaged in protected activity. In a workplace, "protected activity" is defined as actions workers can engage in without fear of retaliation by employers of supervisors. In other words, these activities are protected under the law. For example, if you report an unsafe workplace or discrimination or harassment that is occurring in your workplace, that is a protected activity under the law. Therefore, your employer cannot retaliate against you for engaging in it. The first step is to show that the activity that triggered retaliation was protected.
2. Your employer took adverse action against you. The next element you must prove in a workplace retaliation case is that your employer took some type of workplace action that negatively affected you. For example, if you were not allowed to participate in a training opportunity as retaliation, you must be able to show proof that you were denied that opportunity.
3. The action taken against you was retaliatory. Finally, you must prove that the adverse action taken against you was in fact retaliatory. You must prove a causal connection between the negative action and the retaliation.
What Is A Good Example Of Retaliation?
Retaliation in the workplace can take many different forms. However, in all cases, workplace retaliation occurs because an employee engaged in a protected activity and the employer took some type of adverse action against employee as a result. The law prohibits employers from retaliating against or punishing employees for engaging in protected activities such as reporting discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
One good example of retaliation is wrongful termination. Let's say you complained to the human resources manager in your company that your supervisor propositioned you and acted inappropriately with you. If your supervisor calls you in and fires you after you filed the complaint, you can establish a connection between the two events. In the same situation, if you told your supervisor to stop sexually harassing you and he fires you, that also amounts to retaliation.
Do You Need Help Filing a Retaliation Claim Against Your Employer?
The retaliation attorneys at Kingsley and Kingsley are committed to helping employees defend their rights and recover compensation for economic loss, punitive damages, and attorney's fees arising from illegal, harmful actions taken by employers. Our award-winning employment law firm has been fighting, and winning, for workers across the state of California since 1997.
Without a licensed legal professional's evaluation of your situation, you'll never really know whether or not your rights were violated. If you believe that your employer is retaliating against you for engaging in legally protected activity, then contact our firm immediately. Using an employment lawyer following retaliation is one of the best ways to help protect your rights and obtain compensation. We are here to stand in you corner and provide reliable counsel to help ensure that your legal rights and best interests are protected.
Give us a call at (818) 990-8300 today to speak with one of our friendly legal professionals about your situation. The consultation is free and you won't ever pay unless you hire us, and we win your case.