Workplace Retaliation: What You Need To Know

Workplace retaliation is real, and a lot more common than many people realize. According to the United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), employment discrimination now accounts for roughly 60% of all discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC. 

California is an at-will employment state, meaning employment may be terminated at the will of either employer or employee. When both parties are free to end their working relationship at any time, it may seem challenging, or even impossible, to bring a retaliation suit against a former employer.

While a California employer may fire a worker for no reason at all, they are nonetheless bound to federal and state statutes that prevent retaliatory behavior. Specifically, California employers cannot fire or otherwise retaliate against an employee who makes a complaint of workplace harassment or discrimination, testifies or assists in any proceeding under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), requests workplace accommodations for their religious beliefs or disability, or opposes workplace harassment or employment discrimination. 

At Kim Law APC, we believe that no one should lose their employment after exercising a legally protected right. If you believe you have experienced retaliation at the workplace, call Christopher Kim for a free consultation on your case.

What is retaliation in the workplace?

California has strong legal protections against workplace retaliation. State law prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against employees who engage in protected activities. Employer retaliation may not necessarily include termination; it may mean demotion, pay reduction, changes in job duties, or any other actions that negatively impact the terms and conditions of employment. Such behavior is illegal under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the California Labor Code.

Workplace retaliation (California) refers to adverse actions taken by an employer against an employee in response to the employee’s engagement in legally protected activities. Employer retaliation in California may follow after you participate in the following activities:


Exercising Rights: You have the right to take family or medical leave, request accommodations for disabilities, and participate in labor union activities. 

Whistleblowing: Reporting workplace harassment, suspected discrimination, or other illegal activities is a protected activity under California state law. This also includes reporting violations of laws, regulations, or company policies. In fact, employer whistleblowing protection has recently been expanded in the state of California.

Participating in Investigations: Any time an employee cooperates in internal or external investigations related to workplace misconduct, including providing information to investigators, they may be subject to workplace retaliation as a result.

Filing Complaints: Termination of an employee after they filed complaints related to wage and hour violations, workplace safety issues, discriminatory practices, or other employment-related concerns may also be grounds for an employer retaliation lawsuit.

If you believe you have been subjected to retaliation in the workplace in California, you may have legal recourse. Christopher Kim is an experienced employment attorney who stands ready to help you understand your rights and potential legal options. Call him today for a free consultation.


Can I sue my employer for retaliation?

Retaliation laws vary depending on your jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of your situation. In many places, employees have legal protections against employer retaliation if they engage in certain legally protected activities; this includes reporting workplace harassment, discrimination, safety violations, or other illegal practices.

If you believe you have been subjected to retaliation by your employer, here are a few steps you might consider:

  1. Document Everything: To successfully sue for employer retaliation, you will need a paper trail. Document all incidents, requests, conversations, emails, or other forms of communication that may be relevant to your claim. This documentation can help support your case. (NOTE: California is a “two-party state”, meaning it is illegal to record a conversation without all parties’ consent.)
  2. File a Complaint: In many cases, you’ll need to file a complaint with the appropriate government agency (such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the United States or California Civil Rights Department) before you can pursue legal action.
  3. Consult an Attorney: If you’re considering legal action, consult an experienced workplace discrimination and wrongful termination employment attorney in your area. They can provide legal advice based on the specifics of your situation and help you navigate the process. Kim Law APC serves the entire state of California.


9 Common Types of Retaliation in the Workplace

Workplace retaliation may look different depending on the state in which you are employed as well as the specifics of your case. Retaliation in the workplace can take various forms and may not always be obvious; it may be done under the guise of corrective action, policy decisions or “reduction in force”. 

Here are nine common workplace retaliation:

  1. Unexplained Termination or Layoff: While this is arguably the most severe type of employer retaliation, wrongful termination cases are also among the most common. Employer retaliation after resignation is also not uncommon. If you have been terminated, furloughed or otherwise restricted from working without a clear explanation—particularly after engaging in a protected activity—speak to an employer retaliation attorney immediately.
  2. Changes in Treatment: If you are suddenly treated differently by your employer—isolated from your colleagues, being excluded from meetings, etc.—you may be experiencing workplace retaliation. A change in treatment may also take the form of negative performance evaluations.
  3. Demotion or Reduced Responsibilities: If you have been demoted without cause, given less responsibility, or moved to a less desirable role, this may be a sign of workplace retaliation. (Often, these not-so-subtle changes will follow an employee’s involvement in a protected activity such as reporting harassment or discrimination, or participating in union activities.)
  4. Harassment or Hostile Behavior: Have you experienced harassment, bullying, or hostile behavior from colleagues or supervisors? These are among the most common types of workplace retaliation.
  5. Change in Schedule or Hours: If your work schedule or hours suddenly change, and you are suddenly being given undesirable assignments or shifts, this may be a retaliatory action on the part of your employer.
  6. Unwarranted Discipline: Have you been getting more write-ups or poor performance reviews, or are you on an extended probationary period for seemingly no reason? If so these unwarranted disciplinary actions may be the result of employer retaliation.
  7. Loss of Benefits or Opportunities: Take note if you suddenly lose access to benefits, opportunities for advancement, or other perks that were previously available to you. While this is a relatively rare retaliation tactic, it does occur.
  8. Sudden Monitoring or Surveillance: Depending on the nature of your work, you may have consented to surveillance as a condition of your employment. However, if your employer begins monitoring your activities, behavior, or hours spent away from work in a way that seems unjustified, you may be experiencing employer retaliation.
  9. Personal Attacks or Character Assassination: Has your employer or supervisor engaged in written or verbal defamation as a means of tarnishing your reputation? If your employer has spread false or private information about you, speak to an employment retaliation attorney. 


No two situations are identical and retaliation may vary based on the circumstances of your job, your employer, your history with the company and the state in which you are employed. However, if you suspect that you are experiencing retaliation in the workplace, start to document evidence and call Kim Law APC to receive a free consultation that is tailored to your situation.


Can my employer retaliate against me?

In a word: no. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces a set of federal employment laws that prohibit retaliation against employees who engage in protected activities. California employment law protects all employees from adverse employment action like those mentioned above.

All California employees have a right to report workplace harassment, discrimination, safety violations, or other illegal practices without retaliation on the part of their employer. Furthermore, California employees are free to participate in investigations, join or engage in union activities, and report suspicious or illegal activity observed within their place of employment.

If you believe you are being subjected to retaliation, call Christopher Kim at Kim Law APC to  receive guidance tailored to your situation. As an experienced workplace retaliation lawyer, he will help you understand your rights and legal options and advise you on the appropriate steps you will need to take to address your retaliation claim.


What To Do If Your Employer Retaliates Against You

If you suspect that your employer is retaliating against you for engaging in legally protected activities, follow these steps to protect yourself and the integrity of your case:


  • Report internally. Talk to Human Resources or management and put your observations on record. Don’t be afraid to communicate! If you suspect that your supervisor or someone in your company is retaliating against you, tell your employer about your concerns, and have them document it. If your employer has a formal process for reporting harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, follow their process to the letter, and do so as early as possible. 
  • Keep it professional. Maintaining professionalism, even after retaliatory behavior, will help you maintain credibility and demonstrate that you are acting in good faith. Keep your interactions with colleagues, supervisors, and other company members civilized.
  • Document everything. Documentation will be crucial in proving your employer retaliation case. Keep record of any incidents, conversations, emails, or other forms of communication related to the alleged retaliation.
  • Consult an attorney. Consulting with an employment attorney is a crucial step in navigating your way through retaliation situations. California residents should reach out to Christopher Kim, an employment attorney who specializes in workplace retaliation cases. He can provide legal advice, help you understand your rights, and guide you on the best course of action. Depending on the nature of your case, he may need to file a complaint on your behalf.
  • Take care of yourself. Once you have Christopher Kim in your corner, your next job is to prioritize your well-being. Workplace retaliation can be emotionally draining; throughout the legal process—and after—be sure to seed support from friends, family, or mental-health professionals.


Why Hire Christopher Kim as Your Workplace Retaliation Attorney

Workplace retaliation cases require legal representation that can help you see beyond the emotion of the moment to the outcome you want to reach. With over a decade of experience and countless satisfied clients, Christopher Kim stands ready to help on your California employer retaliation case. He is:

  • Qualified. Christopher’s experience ranges from representing employees who have been retaliated because of opposing workplace harassment and discrimination on any basis including race, sex, religion, age, disability, national origin, and sexual orientation) to reporting fraudulent business practices and safety violations. Christopher has resolved these and many other similar cases with favorable outcomes. He only collects if he wins your case.
  • Detailed. Workplace retaliation cases can be complex. From interviewing coworkers to surveilling your place of employment, Christopher Kim prides himself on detail-driven case strategies. 
  • Compassionate. Christopher Kim is not just an employment retaliation lawyer; he’s also a trusted friend and confidante throughout the legal process. As a sole practitioner with a narrow focus, Christopher Kim stands with you, every step of the way.

Call Christopher Kim today for your free, no-obligation consultation.