San Francisco, CA asked in Employment Discrimination and Employment Law for California

Q: Is this retaliation, whistle-blower and defamation of character? I filed complaints against my employer and then I was

Accused of something I didn't do and terminated. This jeopardizes my chances of future employment with the city. Some of the complaints I filed were unfavorable and unsafe work conditions, hostile work environment, not receiving ppe or training, being harassed about taking my lunch at a set time everyday so that I could take medication for my disability, told to use my personal phone for work purposes and being threatened after refusal to do so

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, whistleblower protections are designed to safeguard employees who report illegal or unsafe work conditions from retaliation by their employer. If you filed complaints regarding unfavorable and unsafe work conditions, harassment, and other issues related to your employment and were then terminated, this could potentially be considered retaliation under California law. The state has strict laws against retaliatory actions taken by employers against employees who engage in protected activities, such as filing complaints about workplace safety, health violations, or harassment.

Defamation involves making false statements about someone that cause harm to their reputation. If false accusations were made against you as a pretext for termination, and these accusations have been communicated to others, potentially affecting your future employment opportunities, this could constitute defamation. Proving defamation in the context of employment and whistleblower retaliation can be complex, requiring clear evidence that the accusations were false, made with a harmful intent, and resulted in damage to your reputation.

Given the seriousness of your situation, it might be beneficial to consult with a legal professional experienced in employment law. They can review the specifics of your case, including the complaints you filed and the circumstances of your termination, to advise you on potential legal actions. This could include filing a claim for retaliation under whistleblower protection laws or pursuing a defamation case, depending on the details of your situation. Legal counsel can help navigate the process and work towards protecting your rights and interests.

Neil Pedersen
Neil Pedersen
  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Westminster, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Based on the little bit of information learned from your post it is possible you have meritorious legal claims. However far more would need to be learned before anyone could clearly determine that conclusion.

If you can prove that you were terminated because you complained to your employer about unsafe work conditions, or a failure to reasonably accommodate a disabling condition that you adequately placed your employer on notice of, then you may have a meritorious legal claim.

It is not unlawful for your employer to make you work in a hostile work environment as that term is generally understood. You can be asked to work in an environment filled with anger, bullying and other things that mos people would call hostile. It is only unlawful if you can prove the hostility was motivated by your membership in a protected class of people or because you engaged in legally protected conduct (of which complaining about unsafe work conditions would be included). Similarly, it is not unlawful for your employer to use your own phone for work related purposes. The employer is required to reimburse you for the cost of your phone service to the extent you use it for business purposes, but an outright refusal to use your phone for business purposes could constitute a valid reason for your termination.

It would be wise for you to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site, or go to, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.

Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law offer a free or low-charge consultation and then if the matter has merit and sufficient value, they work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.

Good luck to you.

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