It is unacceptable for any employer to pursue profits and compromise the health and safety of employees. Every employer in California is expected by law to implement an effective injury and illness prevention program (IIPP). At its core is training and instruction on safe work methods and an efficient system for an employer to communicate with employees. You also have every right to report health and safety violations at your workplace. You are entitled to compensation for lost wages, emotional distress and any other damages you may incur.
California Sexual Harassment Attorney represents employees in a wide array of employment disputes including wrongful termination by your employer. We can always be reached at 800-905-1856 to discuss your case and explain the legal options available to you.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act in California (Cal/OSHA) requires that all workers be provided with an environment that is safe and healthy. This includes undocumented workers. However, independent contractors are excluded. Every employer in California is required by the law to provide a work environment that is free of hazards that can cause injuries, illness or even death to employees.
In California, this act is enforced by Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Federal employees are covered by Federal OSHA. This Act:
- Protects every worker’s right to a healthy and safe work environment.
- Requires that every employer ensures safety in the workplace.
What are your health and safety rights in the workplace?
- Being trained by your employer in a language, you can understand on your rights and workplace hazards.
- Your employer should provide you with protective clothing and equipment if you use materials that can harm you in the course of your work.
- Access to information on work-related injuries and illnesses and hazardous substances such as exposure records and material safety records.
- Ask your employer to correct health and safety violations.
- If you believe Cal/OSHA standards are being violated or that you are being exposed to workplace hazards you have a right to file a complaint with Cal/OSHA.
- Confidentially request that an inspection is conducted at your workplace and to participate in it.
- Request for the findings of a Cal/OSHA inspection.
- Engage your employer on objections that they may have to Cal/OSHA's findings.
- File a whistleblower suit with Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
- Appeal to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to investigate on possible workplace health and hazards.
- Petition the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board for a new standard.
- Be involved in the development of new standards.
- Refuse to work in an unsafe work environment that would cause a reasonable person to think his health and safety is being undermined.
What do you do if your workplace doesn’t meet health and safety standards?
- Approach your employer, manager, supervisor or health, and safety committee to have the problem fixed first.
- If this doesn’t work, you can approach your local OSHA office or consult a lawyer.
- You should also take detailed notes of the health and safety violations in your workplace.
- You can also make confidential requests to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health to have your workplace inspected.
- Your employer will be given an abatement period to rectify the problem if they issue a citation.
- If in your view the citation doesn’t tackle the problem you can submit an objection in 15 days.
What is Retaliation?
Workers in California are legally entitled to certain protected rights. When these rights are violated, workers can report those violations to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) to seek compensation. Unfortunately, some employers are not comfortable with this reporting and take action against employees who report these cases. As an employee facing such a challenge you need an experienced attorney to handle your case.
Who can file a retaliation complaint?
In California, if you are an employee and believe you have been discharged or retaliated against in violation of a law under the jurisdiction of the labor commissioner you may file a complaint with the labor commissioner.
How does the law protect me if I file a retaliation complaint?
Every employee in California has a right to speak to the representatives of the office of the labor commissioner, the government or any other law enforcement agency about any violations they may be experiencing at your workplace. The law stipulates that your employer cannot fire, suspend, demote, or discipline you for providing a government agency with information regarding your employment.
What is the stipulated period for filing a retaliation complaint in California?
If you experience a violation under the jurisdiction of the labor commissioner under the Health and Safety Code you are required to file a complaint not later than 90 days after the action.
In California, all workers are protected under the law, and you can file a retaliation complaint regardless of immigration your immigration status, language or identification. On the presentation of such a case, the labor commissioner’s office will act on your complaint irrespective of your immigration status.
What are the protected activities under Californian Law?
Employers in California must abide by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. These contain anti-retaliation prohibitions that clearly state that employers must not discriminate against an employee who undertakes a protected activity like opposing an illegal activity in the workplace. Your activities are protected by the law if you believe in good faith that the employer’s action that you raised a complaint against violated the law. This includes;
- Refusal to work under unsafe conditions and making complaints to government agencies, labor unions and other people in authority.
- Filing a wage claim for unpaid wages.
- Assisting in a work-related investigation and attesting to co-workers claims.
- Refusal to sign agreements that bind you to not filing claims or disclose information regarding workplace safety conditions.
How may an employer retaliate against you?
- Threats or disciplinary action
- Transfer or demotion
- Pay or hour reductions
What are the laws that protect whistleblowers from retaliation in California?
A whistleblower is anyone who reports any reasonable allegations that an employer has violated state or federal laws which may include unsafe work practices or conditions that are putting employees at risk. In California, Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation by Code Section 1102.5. Employers are required to reinstate any wage or benefit reductions that an employee may have suffered due to their retaliatory acts.
How is evidence gathered on an employer’s retaliation acts?
It is important that you present evidence that connects the protected activity to the employer’s punitive actions for you to be exonerated. This connection can be demonstrated in a number of ways.
- Determining the time frame in which the protected activity and punitive measure occurred.
- Scrutinizing written and verbal communications made by your employer.
- Drawing parallels between the treatment of employees who reported health and safety violations against those who did not.
It is unlawful for any employer in California under Government Code 12940 to discriminate or even discharge an employee who is opposed to working in an environment that is not safe and healthy and has filed a complaint with relevant authorities, testified or participated in legally protected activities. All workers in California are protected against employer retaliation. The Health and Safety Code, FEHA and the California Labor Code all prohibit employer retaliatory activities.
How does the law protect you from employer discrimination and harassment?
The law protects employees from discrimination and harassment for actions that an employee may engage in including; reporting health and safety violations to the management or supervisor.
The California Code of Regulations 1102 (a) (1) prohibits retaliation for the following:
- Seeking advice from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing DFEH
- Assisting a person who has approached DFEH
- Engaging in activities that oppose discrimination
How do you file an OSHA complaint?
The complaint you file to OSHA should be in writing. When drafting the complaint, you need to identify your employer, the kind of retaliation you have experienced and the names of the individuals who have participated in the retaliatory acts. An attorney or union official with your permission may file a complaint on your behalf. You don’t have to give evidence in support of your claim at this stage. This evidence can be provided when you will be interviewed privately by the OSHA investigator. You will then have to clarify what OSHA right you were exercising when your employer retaliated against you and when you discovered the retaliatory acts.
Where do you file the OSHA complaint?
You may file your complaint at any OSHA office of the US Department of Labor. OSHA prefers that you file your complaint at your local OSHA office and in this case CalOSHA.
Should you get a lawyer?
Sometimes it is difficult for you to collect all the evidence you need for your case compile and present it to win a retaliation case. It is therefore critical that you get a lawyer who is competent in employment law to help you compile all the required evidence and ensure that the complaint is filed on time and at the right place. Your lawyer can also ensure that the most important facts of your case are disclosed first to the OSHA investigator.
Though it is not a requirement of the law that you get representation; some people may choose to be represented by a union official. However, it is critical that you engage the services of an attorney who has quite some experience in employment matters. You should remember there is a statute of limitations that applies to employment cases. Before the deadline catches up with you should make sure you consult your lawyer. If you are filing a lawsuit, your legal team needs to gather all relevant facts from you. If you take too long before engaging legal services, it may be more difficult to gather all the facts relating to the case.
Retaliation cases are not the easiest to win. It takes an experienced employment or retaliation lawyer to prove that the retaliation claims set forth are indeed legitimate. Here are some of the damages you can recover;
Economic damages: The compensation amount is calculated by considering all the wages or salaries that you have lost as a result of being fired as an act of retaliation.
Emotional Distress Damages: Experiencing retaliation in the workplace comes with a lot of pain and suffering. You may have experienced psychological effects that may have led to stress and depression. This is converted to a monetary value for you to receive compensation. However, you must prove that you underwent emotional suffering and the only way to prove it is to present some document evidence from your doctor or therapist.
Attorney Fees: In some instances when you win a retaliation case you are allowed to recover attorney fees from the other party.
Punitive Damages: If you are able to prove that your employer was fraudulent, oppressive or acted with malice you may be awarded punitive damages as punishment to your employer.
Every employee is entitled to a healthy and safe environment, and if you engage in a protected activity because an employer has failed to adhere to OSHA guidelines, you should never have to worry about retaliation.
Unfortunately, many employees an California and the United States, in general, are retaliated all the time for reporting violations in the workplace. In many cases, such instances go unreported because a majority of employees feel helpless and powerless in such situations.
Contact Our Sexual Harassment Safety Rights Attorney Now
We at California Sexual Harassment Attorney understand that every retaliation case is unique. If you have experienced an OSHA retaliatory employment practice or any other employment related offense you can contact our office on 800-905-1856 to book an appointment with our retaliation attorney. We know that in this case you may not be required to consult with a retaliation attorney when going to court or requesting a right to sue. However, employment lawsuits can be quite complex, and you will need the services of a well trained professional to realize the damages that are due to you. It is imperative that you consult an attorney as soon as you start experiencing the retaliatory acts.