If you recently spoke up against something you knew was not right in your California workplace, chances are it was a difficult decision. You probably understood you were taking a risk and that some people in your workplace would not be happy if you blew the whistle. Nevertheless, for your own reasons, you stepped out of your comfort zone and did what you felt was right.
Now you are feeling the heat for your decision. Perhaps your life at work has become less tolerable, or your employer is outright mistreating you. This may be retaliation, and federal law protects you from such activity. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates retaliation claims more often than any other form of discrimination in the workplace.
One important right you have as an employee is the right to work in an environment free from discrimination or harassment. If your employer violates this right, whether by creating a hostile environment for you or for a co-worker, you also have the right to complain or to work within the law to correct the situation. This may include speaking directly to the manager or business owner, filing a complaint with the EEOC, participating in an employment discrimination investigation or asking your own questions about workplace policies.
Any of these activities may displease your boss and perhaps even put him or her on the defensive. Your actions may even bring legal trouble to your employer or result in his or her termination. Nevertheless, your actions are protected by law, and your employer may not retaliate or permit retaliation in any way, including:
- Terminating your employment
- Transferring you to an undesirable location or position
- Allowing personal feelings about the situation to affect your job performance evaluations
- Physically or verbally abusing you or allowing others at work to mistreat you
- Increasing your workload or changing your schedule to intentionally interfere with your personal obligations
- Reprimanding you for your actions
- Spreading untrue information about you
- Mistreating or threatening your family
- Threatening to report you or actually reporting you, such as to immigration authorities
- Becoming overly critical of your work
Of course, your actions as a whistleblower do not protect you from all disciplinary consequences. For example, if your job performance drops or your actions at work violate company policies, your employer may impose reasonable discipline or terminate you according to procedures. It may be difficult to discern when an employer’s actions are related to protected whistleblower activity, so it is wise to keep careful notes and save any evidence of potential retaliation.