When discrimination or harassment happens in your workplace, it can be instinctive to go to HR or your senior managers to report the incident - especially when California is one of the most worker-friendly states in the country, and your right to workplace safety should be stringently protected. Yet suddenly you find that your complaint is brushed off, dismissed, and you begin seeing negative actions taken toward you in retaliation. You may receive a demotion, or be assigned to less than favorable projects or have lucrative clients taken from you. When this happens, it is called unlawful retaliation.
The Society for Human Resource Management defines unlawful retaliation as any adverse action taken by an employer, labor organization or employment agency against an employee engaging in protected actions. By "protected actions" they refer to the right you and all other employees have under California law to file complaints for discrimination, harassment or other workplace misconduct without being further penalized in or out of the workplace.
With corporate ethics a rather hot subject at the moment, the matter of unlawful retaliation is currently at the forefront of many companies' efforts to improve their HR and legal compliance. This includes abiding by California's laws regarding fair labor practices. If you reported an incident to your company's leadership and were subsequently punished in some way, it may count as unlawful retaliation.
This article does not constitute legal advice, and should be considered an information resource only. Please do not use it over the counsel of a qualified lawyer.