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When is employee termination an example of retaliation?

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2024 | Unfair Labor Practice Defense

In California, employers must follow strict rules when terminating employees. Sometimes, an employer may fire an employee for reasons that seem unfair or illegal. One such illegal reason is retaliation.

Retaliation happens when an employer punishes an employee for engaging in a protected activity. Understanding when termination is retaliatory is important for both employees and employers.

What are protected activities?

Protected activities are actions that employees have a right to take without fear of punishment. California retaliation and discrimination laws outline protected activities such as filing a complaint about workplace discrimination, reporting safety violations or participating in an investigation about illegal practices at work. If an employee engages in one of these activities and then faces termination, it may be a case of retaliation.

What are examples of wrongful termination as retaliation?

One common example is when an employee reports unsafe working conditions to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If the employer fires this employee shortly after the report, it could appear as though the employer is retaliating. The timing of the termination plays a significant role in determining if retaliation has occurred. When termination happens soon after the protected activity, it raises suspicion.

Another example involves discrimination complaints. If an employee files a complaint about racial discrimination and the employer then fires the employee, it might be retaliation. Employers must ensure that their actions are not connected to the employee’s complaint. They must provide legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for the termination.

Is it still wrongful termination if the employer cites poor performance?

Performance issues sometimes arise after an employee engages in a protected activity. If an employer suddenly claims poor performance as the reason for termination, it can be seen as suspicious, especially if the employee previously had a good record. Employers must document performance problems consistently and not just after a protected activity.

Employee termination becomes retaliation when it is a direct response to the employee engaging in protected activities. In California, this is illegal and can lead to serious consequences for employers. It is important to understand the relevant employment laws and maintain fair practices in the workplace.