Retaliation claims have long been a part of California employment law, but as of January 1, 2018, a new law expanding existing protections against unlawful retaliation will go into effect. Earlier this week, Governor Brown signed a bill amending Labor Code section 98.7 and expanding existing employee protections against unlawful retaliation.
The new law will allow the Labor Commissioner to issue a citation to an employer accused of unlawful retaliation directly, effectively ordering the employer to cease the actions that the Labor Commission deems retaliatory. Under the new version of the law, the employer has the burden file a writ of mandate with the superior court if it disagrees with the Labor Commissioner's determination.
Also, under the new version of section 98.7 injunctive relief can be granted if the employee shows that there is “reasonable cause” to show that an employee was retaliated against. This is a lower standard than typically applies to requests for injunctive relief.
The new law also permits the Labor Commissioner to investigate retaliation even without a complaint from an employee. It seems unlikely that the Labor Commissioner would dedicate resources to investigate employers for retaliation without an employee complaint, but perhaps the Labor Commission's office will use this new provision to expand its investigation into employers accused by employees of other Labor Code violations.
In short, the amendments to Labor Code 98.7 are sure to make defending against claims of retaliation more of a burden for employers.