Employment discrimination and harassment based on membership in a protected class are patently unacceptable in California. Victims of discrimination and harassment are often hesitant to report what has occurred at their workplace for fear of retaliation. Federal and California lawmakers understand this dynamic and have worked to design a legal framework for addressing harassment and discrimination claims while protecting the complaining victim. When an aggrieved employee claims harassment and retaliation, the amounts awarded by the judge or jury are commonly greater for the retaliation portion of the claim. A California woman was recently awarded over $600,000 from her former employer for retaliating against her after she complained of harassment.
According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff was an employee of the California Department of Transportation. At some point in 2009, the plaintiff receive electronic communications that were not intended for her and contained sexually explicit and offensive material. The plaintiff reported the situation to the human resources department of the defendant. According to the plaintiff, she was treated differently after reporting the messages and ultimately fired from her post. The plaintiff alleged in a lawsuit that her termination was unlawful, and the result of illegal retaliation by the defendant.
After a trial lasting over three weeks, the jury agreed that the plaintiff was a victim of retaliation. Notably, the plaintiff’s unlawful termination claim failed, but the retaliation claims stuck and resulted in an award of over $600,000 to the plaintiff. This demonstrates that an employer’s response to a complaint can be more harmful to them than the initial incident that led to the complaint. Aggrieved employees who may be victims of illegal harassment or discrimination should not fear complaining to their superiors about the treatment, as the law protects them if they are punished for making a report.
Importantly, an employee’s initial complaint need not be 100% valid for it to trigger another claim in the event of retaliation, so long as the complaint is made in good faith. This means that an employee who brings a meritless complaint of discrimination still may have a civil claim against their employer if they are punished for making the complaint. California employers put substantial effort into preventing their employees from asserting their rights, and your employer or HR department is not the best source for legal advice if you are being mistreated.
Finding Legal Counsel Who Will Fight for Your Rights
If you or someone you know has been discriminated against or harassed at work, you have the right to challenge how you have been treated. Federal and California laws protect employees from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and these statutes have been used to vindicate tens of thousands of employees who have been mistreated. If you have questions about a possible claim, the experienced California employment law attorneys with the Nourmand Law Firm may be able to help. Our lawyers have successfully argued all types of California employment law claims, including discrimination and retaliation claims. We take cases on a contingency basis, meaning if we don’t collect a judgment, you’ll pay nothing. For a free, no-obligation consultation with a California employment law attorney, call 310-553-3600 today.