Employer Retaliation for Union Activity

One of the most important parts of California’s labor code is the right granted to employees to associate freely, including the right to participate in union activity. When an employer attempts to bar an employee from engaging in union activities, not only does the employer infringe upon employees’ rights to free association, but the employer also violates California law.

California Labor Code and Employees’ Rights

Sections 1101 and 1102 of California Labor Code explain that employees in the state of California have the right to engage in politics, political activities and affiliations, and that employers are prohibited from coercing or attempting to “coerce or control his employees” from engaging in political activities (including union activities) through threats or discharging the employees.

In other words, it is against the law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for joining any type of labor or employment organization or from withdrawing from the organization.

In addition to California laws, the National Labor Relations Act provides employees with the right to do the following:

  • Organize a union,
  • Join a union,
  • Participate in collective bargaining,
  • Take action to improve working conditions,
  • Strike and picket, and
  • Choose not to join a union or do any of the activities listed above.

And just like California Labor Code, federal law also prohibits an employer from punishing or retaliating against an employee for exercising his or her right to organize and bargain.

Examples of Retaliation Prohibited by California Labor Code

An employer may not be as direct in retaliation efforts as simply firing the employee. Instead, retaliation can be presented in many forms. Examples of retaliation include:

  • threatening the employee,
  • reducing wages,
  • giving the employee a poor performance review,
  • refusing to rehire the employee,
  • writing an untrue or disadvantageous letter of recommendation for the employee,
  • putting the employee on probation, or
  • withdrawing employee benefits.

An employer is not allowed to promise positive work incentives — like a raise or a promotion — in exchange for an employee agreeing not to join a union.

How to File a Retaliation Complaint

When retaliation (or bribery) is taken against an employee based on the employee’s participation in union activities, the employee has the right to retain legal counsel and file a complaint against the employer. The complaint must be filed within six months after the retaliation occurs and must include details about the type of retaliation taken.

After the complaint has been filed, a retaliation complaint investigator will make the decision as to whether or not the complaint should be referred to the Labor Commissioner, who will investigate it. If it is referred to the Labor Commissioner, the Labor Commissioner will determine whether or not the complaint is valid or whether a hearing is required to obtain more evidence. If the Labor Commissioner determines that the employee’s claim is accurate, then the employee is entitled to damages.

File Your Retaliation Complaint Based On Union Activity Now

Because of the short time frame that you have for filing your retaliation claim (six months), it’s important that you take action as soon as possible. To help you collect evidence to substantiate your claim or to present your case in the event that the claim requires a hearing, contact the labor attorneys at Hiden, Rott & Oertle, LLP today.

We are ready to help you understand the state’s labor laws, file your retaliation complaint and collect damages. Reach our offices today to talk with our team members about why our labor attorneys are the right choice for you by dialing 619-296-5884.