California labor laws exist to protect employees from illegal and wrongful workplace actions, and they are necessary because California is an at-will employment state. Suppose you are an employee working in the private sector. In that case, your employer can generally reduce your work hours at any given time as long as the reason for the hour reduction does not violate federal or state laws.
Retaliation is when an employer punishes an employee using adverse employment actions for participating or engaging in any protected activity. If your employer reduced your work hours because you took steps to assert your labor rights, then it is retaliation. Retaliation is illegal in California.
Understanding your labor rights
As an employee, you must know what it means to engage in protected activity to recognize when your employer is violating your rights. Protected activity can be any of the following:
- Filing a claim or formal complaint against someone in your workplace with your employer or the Labor Commissioner
- Taking time off to serve on a jury or testify in court
- Using or requesting Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or California Family Rights Act (CFRA) leaves
- Complaining about unsafe or hostile working conditions
- Supporting a political candidate or engaging in political activity
- Participating in whistleblower activities such as discrimination investigations
- Making a workers’ compensation claim
- Refusing sexual advances
- Discussing salary with colleagues
An adverse employment action is any negative act or action taken by your employer that changes the terms and conditions of your employment. Adverse employment actions include:
- Reducing or denying benefits
- Reducing wage and hours
- Disciplinary actions or threats
- Poor evaluations or negative reviews
- Denying a promotion
Retaliation is revenge, and it is unprofessional.
The law is on your side
You can file a retaliation claim depending on the type of protected activity that led to the adverse employment action. It could be wage and hour violations or illegal discrimination and harassment. It might even be both. Regardless, California labor laws will protect you, and the legal options available will be contingent on the facts of your situation.