California law protects employees from retaliation who oppose unlawful company conduct by either complaining against their boss, or testifying against their boss or employer in any legal proceeding. What is retaliation though? Retaliation occurs when an employer fires, demotes, lays-off, or does something that adversely affects the employee’s job because the employee opposed unlawful practices under the law. When this happens employment lawyers may be contacted to ensure that employers are held accountable for their illegal conduct.
Our main page on retaliation can be found here. Here is a video Branigan Robertson made to explain retaliation to non-lawyers.
Case Example of Lawyers Holding an Employer Accountable
In Zulfer v. Playboy Enterprises Inc., the plaintiff employee worked as an executive in the corporate accounting department for almost thirty years. At one point, the CFO, asked the plaintiff to accrue over $1 million dollars in executive bonuses on the company’s general ledger. The plaintiff refused to do so because Board approval was required if there was to be a pay out on the bonuses. The plaintiff then discussed what the CFO asked of her with another executive at the company. Several months later, the CFO terminated the plaintiff because he had made the decision to eliminate her position. Oddly enough, the CFO had another executive move from Chicago to California to basically take over plaintiff’s former corporate controller position. The plaintiff immediately retained an employment lawyer.
Plaintiff alleged that the CFO pressured her into making the accrual without following internal accounting policies which would violate the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Defendant alleged that the issue had nothing to do with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, but was simply a routine accounting issue within the company. Further, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s termination was legitimate.
The jury was not convinced and found that the company had retaliated against the plaintiff for refusing to take part in illegal activity in violation of the Sarbanes Oxley Act. The jury awarded the plaintiff a verdict of $6,000,000.
What Should You Do If You’re Retaliated Against?
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for employers to ask or demand their employees to perform some duty in violation of the law. Many times employees feel pressured and will succumb to the employer’s demands. However, as Zullfer illustrates, employers can be held accountable for retaliating against their employees for refusing to break the law. If you feel you have been retaliated against for opposing unlawful company conduct, contact an employment lawyer immediately. Attorney’s like Branigan Robertson generally represent employees on a contingency fee. They normally do not charge for consultations. Therefore, there is no risk in picking up the phone.