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Workplace Retaliation: How to Prove Your Claim

Posted on in Employment

San Jose retaliation lawyers, workplace retaliation, whistleblower statute, California employment law,  retaliation claimIn the United States most employer-employee relationships are governed by the at-will employment doctrine. Essentially, this doctrine holds that an employer has the right to fire an employee at any time for any reason (or for no reason at all) and that conversely an employee has the right to quit his or her job at any time and for any reason (or for no reason at all). However, under California law, there are a few important exceptions to this general rule. For example, consider the following two exceptions:

  • The Public Policy Exception: A California employer may not fire (or in some other way retaliate against) an employee for a reason that violates the fundamental principles of public policy. For example, courts have found that it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for invoking his or her statutory right to collect workers’ compensation benefits because allowing such retaliation to stand would contravene public policy.

  • The Whistleblower Exception: In California, we have a whistleblower statute that protects employees who refuse to participate in illegal activities, or who disclose illegal activities, from employer retaliation. For example, if an employee reports that his or her employer is violating our state’s employment laws, it is illegal for the employer to retaliate against the whistleblowing employee.

California employment law embraces several other exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine as well, but for now the important thing to understand is that California law recognizes certain protected activities that California employers cannot retaliate against their employees for engaging in.

Proving Retaliation

The California Chamber of Commerce notes that in order to establish a retaliation claim in California an individual must be able to prove each of the following three elements:

  • That he or she engaged in a protected activity;
  • That he or she experienced an adverse employment action; and
  • That a causal link existed between the protected activity and the adverse employment action.

Element number one, proving that the plaintiff (i.e. the person suing) engaged in a protected activity generally is not too challenging to establish. This is accomplished by citing to the legal authority that protects the activity at issue and then by providing evidence establishing that the plaintiff did in fact engage in the protected activity.

Similarly, element number two, showing that the plaintiff experienced an adverse employment action, is also frequently easy to prove. An adverse employment action can be anything from receiving a poor review to being fired; the key is simply to provide evidence sufficient to show that the employer executed an action (or actions) that negatively impacted the employee’s employment.

In most retaliation cases proving element number three, that there was a causal link between the protected activity and the adverse employment action, is the most challenging. In order to satisfy this element the plaintiff must show that the employer executed the adverse employment action because the plaintiff engaged in the protected activity. It can be tricky to establish this causal link, but experienced employment law attorneys are often able to do so though timeline evidence showing that similar adverse or disciplinary employment actions were not taken against the plaintiff until after he or she engaged in the protected activity.

Let Us Help You with Your Case

Trying to prove a retaliation claim on your own can be extremely challenging. Do not make the mistake of trying to take on an employer all by yourself, let the experienced San Jose retaliation lawyers of Jachimowicz Law Group, Attorneys at Law, Inc. fight for you. Our firm handles employment law cases throughout northern California and would be happy to discuss your legal options with you during a free initial consultation.








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