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Employers in California are prohibited from taking adverse actions against their employees (current, former or prospective) who exercise a right under state law, such as filing a claim of wage violation.

Adverse Actions

So what can be considered an adverse action? Although California law does not neatly spell out what constitutes an adverse action, case law can assist us in forming an understanding of what does and does not constitute an adverse action in California. In Thomas v. Department of Corrections (77 Cal.App.4th 507), the court found that termination of employment and demotion are considered adverse actions. In McRae v. Dep’t of Corrections and Rehab. (142 Cal.App.4th 377), the court found that an action resulting in a reduction in pay was adverse.

Although the easiest type of cases, terminations, demotions and reductions in pay are not the end all and be all of what can constitute an adverse action. For instance, in Patten v. Grant Joint Union High School Dist. (134 Cal.App.4th 1378), the court found that a lateral transfer, even without a change in wages, benefits and duties, could be considered an adverse action where in reality the transfer is a demotion or there are significantly diminished responsibilities. Considering hostile working conditions, the court in Yanowitz v. L’Oreal USA, Inc. (36 Cal.4th 1028) found that there was no requirement that an employer’s retaliatory actions constitute one swift blow, rather than a series of subtle, yet damaging injuries.

New Law

And on October 5, 2013, with California Governor Jerry Brown signing into law SB 666, an adverse action will now also include reporting, or threatening to report, an employee’s, former employee’s, or prospective employee’s suspected citizenship or immigration status – or the suspected status of that individual’s family member – to a federal, state, or local agency. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2014. Violations of the law are subject to civil penalty up to $10,000 per employee, per violation, and revocation of certain business or professional licenses granted under California law.

Your Rights

If you believe your employer has taken adverse actions against you in retaliation for exercising your rights, please contact an experienced labor and employment attorney or Ko/Za Law Group LLP. Use our contact us page to set up a free initial consultation.

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