Protection of an employee or applicant for employment who engages in protected conduct has been expanded, as of January 1, 2014. Under current law, an employer is forbidden to discharge an employee, or discriminate against an employee or applicant for employment because that employee participates in protected conduct.
Under the new law, an employer is prohibited from engaging in retaliation or harmful behavior against an employee or applicant for employment because that employee participated in protected conduct. According to the new law, protected conduct includes an employee’s written or verbal grievance that his or her employer owes him or her unpaid wages.
For instance, a former employee may decide to file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, in which case, the employee is still entitled to be reinstated and to be reimbursed for lost wages and employment benefits.
What Are the Penalties for Violation of the New Law?
An employer who purposely refrains from hiring or promoting an employee, or rehiring a former employee, who is eligible to be rehired or promoted, based on the outcome of a grievance procedure or hearing, can be charged with a misdemeanor. Violation of this law by an employer will result in liability for a civil penalty of $10,000 for each employee for each violation. This penalty will be enforced in addition to any other available remedies.
Irrelevance of Employee’s Immigration Status
In enforcing labor and employment laws, an employee’s immigration status is irrelevant to an employer’s liability for retaliating against an employee. Some employers have been known to use their employees’ immigration status to prevent the employees from exercising their employment rights.
An example of such behavior was exhibited by an employer in San Jose, CA, who, according to the Labor Commissioner, owed an immigrant worker $50,000 in unpaid wages. Because the employer was dissatisfied with the ruling, the employer engaged in harassment against the worker in his home, and made threats to report him to immigration.
The new law will likely deter employers from retaliating against their employees who file claims for unpaid wages, and will prevent employers from using their employees’ immigration status against them.
Further information concerning author Roxanne Minott can be found at Alain Pinel Realtors.