Employees in California are afforded various rights via federal and state law. Among them is protection from retaliation by their employer in the event that they file a complaint regarding the company or one of its other employees. Regardless of the cause of the complaint or whether it is filed internally or with an external agency, an employer cannot commit any adverse action against an employee in response.
Actions that may give rise to a retaliation action include terminating or demoting the employee, providing unwarranted negative performance reviews, reducing his or her salary or creating a hostile working environment, among others. Additionally, protection from these actions is provided not just to the employee filing the complaint, but also to those employees that assist in the investigation of the complaint.
These protections are also afforded, regardless of whether the employee filing the complaint is acting in good faith or not. If an employer takes negative action against an employee for pursuing a complaint that it believes to be false, it will still be liable for retaliation against the employee. Retaliation can also exist in situations in which the employer had no intent to treat the employee in an adverse manner. This may occur when an employee is assigned to another department after complaining of harassment by his or her supervisor. The employee may interpret the assignment as a punishment and an adverse event regarding his or her employment status.
Employees who are merely reporting illegal conduct against their employer or another member of their company should be aware of their rights regarding retaliation. An employment law attorney can assist those that feel their rights are being violated by their employer.
Source: FindLaw, "Workplace Retaliation," accessed March 8, 2015