DLaw’s Emilia Mehrabian Shares Top Tips for Helping California Workers Deal with Workplace Retaliation

Emilia Mehrabian is a top attorney at DLaw (aka Davtyan Law Firm), a specialty law firm that has protected the rights of hundreds of thousands of workers and recovered over a quarter of $1 billion for California’s blue-collar community.

Mehrabian – a fellow Southwestern Law School Alumni like DLaw founder Emil Davtyan – specializes in a broad range of employment disputes that impact California’s working class, highlighted by her expert knowledge of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

To reinforce DLaw’s mission of “Champion for California’s working class,” Mehrabian shared valuable tips to help victims of workplace retaliation.

What is the principal piece of advice you offer someone who needs counsel regarding a potential workplace retaliation?

My principal piece of advice is that retaliation cases focus on what we can reasonably prove happened. The law places the burden on the employee to prove a causal connection between a negative employment action taken by the employer as a response to the employee’s engagement in a legally protected activity.

What are common examples of workplace retaliation that workers deal with? How can a worker know if they have a workplace retaliation case?

Common examples of workplace retaliation include: suffering an adverse employment action due to reporting unlawful harassment (particularly by upper management); taking protected medical leave; suffering a workplace injury and filing for or requesting worker’s compensation benefits; taking protected family medical leave to care for a family member; complaining or reporting about unpaid wages (including working off-the-clock and unpaid overtime); and complaining about missed meal and rest breaks. To properly assess their situation, workers should contact an attorney immediately after they feel they have suffered any adverse employment action by their employer.

How can a worker prove that retaliation took place? 

A worker can prove retaliation took place by showing they engaged in a protected activity, and suffered an adverse employment action, and the reason for that adverse employment action was the protected activity itself. Protected activities are protected and governed by law; timing is often the key in these cases. The closer in time the adverse employment action is to the protected activity, the more likely it will prove the adverse reaction was because of the employee’s engagement in that protected activity. There are many factors and circumstances to consider for each retaliation case. Therefore, it is crucial for employees to reach out to an attorney immediately for proper assessment.

Can an employer retaliate against a worker if they refuse to do something that they believe is discriminatory?

The answer to this question depends on whether or not the employee reasonably believes that the refused act violates discrimination law. The act does not necessarily have to violate the law, so long as a reasonable person would find that it does. At the very least, an employer should engage with the worker to address the worker’s concerns regarding potential discrimination in the workplace.

How does a worker report retaliation in the workplace? How do you prove it?

An employee can report retaliation in the workplace by communicating with human resources and/or upper management. It is best to memorialize complaints and reports of retaliation in documents, such as emails, to serve as evidence in a legal proceeding, should there be the need for one. A worker can prove retaliation by connecting their engagement in a protected activity to an adverse employment action taken by their employer in response to that activity.

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