Employees have specific rights that they can expect their employers to uphold. One of these is if an employee engages in “protected activity,” such as making a complaint of sexual harassment, discrimination, or wage and hour violations, they can’t be subject to an “adverse employment action” (e.g., being disciplined, terminated or scheduled with a less desirable shift) because they engaged in such conduct. If an employer takes retaliatory measures against an employee who engages in protected activity, such is unlawful under both California and federal employment laws.
However, that doesn’t mean that the employee can disregard company policies or become insubordinate just because they engaged in protected activity.
Can employees slack off at work after taking part in a protected activity?
Employees still have to meet their job duties and expectations even if they’ve taken part in a protected activity. Employers should keep detailed records if the employee is breaking the rules or doing a poor job at work. If the employer wants to discipline or terminate the employee for such behavior, then it will need to show it did so for “legitimate business reasons” and not because the employee engaged in protected activity.
Employers have to pay close attention to how employees are being treated within the company. Before issuing an employee discipline, the employer should ask if other employees would be disciplined in the same manner if they engaged in the same behavior. Addressing any issues that creep up as soon as you notice them can help to protect your company. If an employee takes legal action regarding retaliation, you must address the matter immediately. Be sure you have someone on your side who can help you to determine the best way to do this for your company.