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Retaliating against employees who report problems is illegal

Virtually every employer in California says it does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination of its workforce by co-workers or superiors. These businesses claim to take reports of harassment and discrimination from their employees very seriously. Unfortunately, in many cases these are just empty words.

Rather than investigate claims, many employers try to suppress complaints of toxic behavior by punishing the reporter. They may hold back the reporter’s career, make doing his or her job more difficult to do — or outright fire him or her.

This is known in employment law as “retaliation.” It is against the law in California. Victims of retaliation can sue their current or former employer for compensation.

Here are some common ways employers retaliate against employees who reported misconduct:

  • Giving an unfairly poor performance review
  • Withholding a deserved promotion
  • Unwarranted disciplinary actions, like a suspension or demotion
  • Turning co-workers against the reporter
  • Handing out bad work assignments

These tactics can be subtle compared with firing someone the day after they report sexual harassment. And it is likely that management will provide some pretext for its actions. Indeed, victims frequently have little hard evidence that they are being retaliated against.

Still, an experienced employment law attorney knows where to look for evidence. With a lawyer’s help, victims can be compensated for their damages, such as lost income. Remember that the person who suffered retaliation can be the victim of the discrimination or harassment he or she reported, or he or she could have been reporting it on a co-worker’s behalf.