Proving Workplace Retaliation Can Require the Assistance of an Attorney

If you have been discriminated against or harassed as an employee, there are legal mechanisms in place to protect you from being retaliated against if you come forward with your claim. The fact is, however, that employer retaliation happens, and proving it is often very complicated. If you have been retaliated against at work for complaining about discrimination and/or harassment, you need the professional legal counsel of an experienced Redding, California, employment lawyer on your side.

Retaliation in the Workplace

To prove that you were retaliated against on the job, you must be able to show a clear relationship between your complaint of harassment or discrimination and a negative job action on the part of your employer. The three elements of a successful retaliation case include:

  • You, as an employee, engaged in an activity that is protected by the law.
  • Your employer took action against you.
  • Your action specifically caused your employer to take action against you.

The Protected Activity

The protected activity forwarded in your retaliation claim can be one of two types, including:

  • An Act of Opposition – If the act for which you are being retaliated against is the act of opposing discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace, that opposition is legally protected. Not only are employees who complain of such acts protected, but those who bear witness to such acts in internal investigations are also protected. In any incident in which an employee communicates his or her belief that the employer engaged in discriminatory or harassing practices, the employee is generally protected from employer retaliation. This includes an employee who declines to participate in a company policy that is discriminatory, such as a policy not to hire women for top management positions.
  • An Act of Participation – If you file a charge of discrimination or harassment or otherwise take part in a discrimination or harassment case (as a witness for the person bringing the claim, for example), your act of participation is legally protected from retaliation.

The Retaliation

The negative action that constitutes the retaliation in your case can be any action that has materially adverse effects – if those effects would reasonably deter employees from making a complaint in the first place (or from engaging in otherwise protected activities). The fact is that enforcement of laws that protect against discrimination and harassment is meaningless if employees are afraid to come forward with complaints in the first place. As such, the laws against retaliation are quite broad – in an effort to afford ample protections.

Examples of an employer’s negative actions that can amount to retaliation include:

  • Firing you
  • Demoting you
  • Reducing your salary
  • Unfairly evaluating you negatively
  • Transferring you
  • Altering your job assignment and/or job duties
  • Disciplining you
  • Changing your shift
  • Otherwise changing the terms and conditions of your employment

Retaliation on the job can be swift and obvious, slow and subtle, or anything in between, but retaliation (in any form) is both harmful and illegal and should be addressed.


Demonstrating that you engaged in a protected activity and that you subsequently experienced a negative action on the job is not enough to prove retaliation. You must be able to prove that the actions in question are connected. If you are, for example, laid off in a planned layoff that is based on company financials that happens to take place after you filed a complaint, you will likely have a very difficult time proving retaliation.

The element of causation – that your protected act caused your employer’s negative action toward you – is likely to be the most complicated component of your case. Unless your employer openly demonstrates a causal relationship by saying that if you complain you’re going to suffer a specific consequence, you’re going to need to prove causation via indirect evidence. Such evidence can be based on any of the following:

  • Timing of Retaliation – If the retaliation directly follows your complaint, it makes retaliation look that much more probable.
  • Knowledge of Protected Act – You must be able to show that the party that retaliated against you knew about the protected activity in which you engaged. 
  • Absence of Another Explanation – If you can show that there was no other reason for your employer’s alleged retaliation, your case will be strengthened. Further, if your employer’s explanation for his or her alleged retaliation doesn’t add up, it can also bolster your claim.

Consult with an Experienced Redding, California, Employment Attorney Today

Workplace retaliation claims are complicated, but the dedicated employment attorneys at Maire & Deedon – proudly serving Redding, California – are committed to applying their extensive experience, resources, and knowledge to effect your case’s most positive resolution. We’re here to help, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 530-246-6050 today.