New California Law Makes It Easier for Employees to Establish Retaliation Claims for Alleged Labor Code Violations
CA SB 497 Retaliation Law 2024
On October 8, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed Senate Bill No. 497, officially establishing the “Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act.” The act aims to protect employees who engage in certain protected activities under specified sections of the California Labor Code from experiencing any adverse employment action within 90 days of such activity. If an employee does face such action, the act sets up a “rebuttable presumption of retaliation” against the employer. The Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act will take effect on January 1, 2024.
Under the new law, the burden of proof for showing that the adverse employment action was based on a legitimate non-retaliatory reason will lie with the employer. Additionally, an employee who wins the case will be entitled to civil penalties for each violation. Suppose an employer is found to have retaliated against an employee for Section 1102.5 protected activity. In that case, the employer may be liable for a civil penalty not exceeding $10,000 per employee for each violation. This civil penalty is already available for Section 98.6 protected activity.
The new presumption standard and civil penalties remind employers in California that they must take employee complaints seriously and avoid any actions against an employee that could be considered unlawful retaliation.