Retaliation For Unsafe Working Conditions & Your Rights

Have you seen the television show Desperate Housewives? One of the actresses appearing on the show, Nicolette Sheridan, sued the production company under Labor Code section 6310 alleging she was terminated in retaliation for a complaint she filed alleging battery by the show’s producer. This post will discuss Labor Code sections 6310 and 6311 and employees’ rights related to these code sections.

Labor Code Sections 6310 & 6311

Labor Code sections 6310 and 6311 protect employees against unsafe working conditions and retaliation by employers against employees for complaining against any such conditions. In particular Labor Code section 6310 states that “no person,” meaning an employer, is allowed to discriminate against an employee who brings an oral or written complaint related to employee health or safety.

In addition, any employee who is discriminated against or discharged/terminated from employment due to making a “bona fide” complaint about employee health or safety to a governmental agency, the employer, or the employer’s representative, is entitled to be reinstated to the employee’s job and to be reimbursed for lost wages and benefits.

Labor Code Section 6310 also states that an employer may not retaliate against an employee who is a family member or is perceived to be a family member of a person who filed a complaint pursuant to Section 6310.

Similarly, Labor Code Section 6311 states that an employee may not be laid off if he or she refuses to perform work that violates “any occupational safety or health standard” if the violation would create “a real and apparent hazard to the employee or his or her fellow employees.” Section 6311 provides for a private right of action for a laid off employee who refuses to perform work that violates “any occupational safety or health standard” and the underlying violation would create a real and apparent hazard to the employee or his or her fellow employees.

In Nicolette Sheridan’s case, the Court of Appeals decided that an employee suing for relief under Labor Code Sections 6310 and 6311 does not need to first file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. This is known as exhausting administrative remedies. This important decision by the California Court of Appeals strengthens employees’ rights to a safe and healthy workplace.

If you think you are being forced to work in an unsafe work environment or have been retaliated against for reporting hazardous work conditions, contact the experienced California employment attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for your free consultation today.