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  • Daniel Rodriguez

SB 497: Enhanced Protection from Retaliation

On October 8, 2023, Senate Bill No. 497 (SB 497) was signed into law, introducing significant changes to California employees' protections. This new legislation amends Sections 98.6, 1102.5, and 1197.5 of the California Labor Code to strengthen safeguards against employer retaliation. Here's what SB 497 means for you as an employee and how it enhances your rights in the workplace.


sb 497 employee

What is SB 497?

SB 497 is designed to enhance protections for employees who engage in protected activities, such as reporting labor law violations or participating in investigations or legal proceedings related to workplace rights. Under the existing law, employees claiming retaliation had to go through a three-stage burden of proof:


  1. Establishing a prima facie case of retaliation. (A prima facie case is an initial presentation of evidence that, if unchallenged, would be sufficient to prove a claim.)

  2. The employer must then provide a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for their actions.

  3. Finally, the employee must demonstrate that the employer's reason was merely a pretext for retaliation.


SB 497 significantly alters this process by introducing a rebuttable presumption in favor of the employee. Specifically, if an employer takes adverse action against an employee within 90 days of engaging in specified protected activities, it is presumed that the action was retaliatory. The employer can rebut this presumption if they can articulate a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for the adverse action.


How Does SB 497 Protect You?

SB 497 protects all California employees, including those in both public and private sectors. The new law covers a range of protected activities, such as:


Filing Complaints Regarding Labor Law Violations

If you file a complaint about labor law violations – internally to a supervisor or externally to a government agency – you are protected from retaliation. Any adverse action your employer takes within 90 days of your complaint filing is presumed to be retaliatory unless the employer can prove otherwise.


Assisting in the Enforcement of Labor Laws

If you assist in enforcing labor laws by providing information during a workplace inspection, cooperating with investigations, or helping other employees understand their rights, you are protected from retaliation. Your efforts to uphold labor standards are recognized and safeguarded under SB 497.


Testifying or Intending to Testify in Legal Proceedings Concerning Labor Rights

SB 497 protects you if you testify or intend to testify in legal proceedings about labor rights. This includes giving depositions, appearing in court, or providing written statements. You can participate in the legal process without fear of retaliation, promoting transparency and justice in the workplace.


Exercising Rights Under the Equal Pay Act

You are protected if you exercise your rights under the Equal Pay Act by discussing wages with colleagues, disclosing your wages, or filing claims of wage discrimination. Any adverse action your employer takes within 90 days of such activities is presumed retaliatory, shifting the burden to the employer to prove otherwise.


What Should You Do If You Experience Retaliation?

If you believe you have been retaliated against for engaging in any protected activities mentioned above, it's important to document everything and seek legal advice. SB 497 makes it easier for you to challenge retaliatory actions by presuming such actions to be retaliatory if they occur within 90 days of your protected activity.


Understanding Your Employer's Responsibilities

SB 497 shifts the burden of proof to the employer, who must provide substantial evidence that any adverse action taken within the 90-day window is based on legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons. If they fail to do so, they face significant legal and financial repercussions, including civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation, payable to you as the affected employee.


When Are These Protections Effective?

The provisions of SB 497 took effect immediately upon the Governor's approval on October 8, 2023. Any adverse action taken against you within 90 days of engaging in protected activities is subject to the new presumption of retaliation.


SB 497 represents a significant advancement in California employment law. It offers enhanced employee protections and promotes a fairer, more transparent work environment.


Are you facing retaliation?

If you believe you have experienced retaliation at work for engaging in any protected activities outlined under SB 497, it's important to understand your rights and take action. We specialize in employment law at Hall Law Group and are here to help you navigate these complex legal matters. Contact us today to discuss your situation and explore your options for seeking justice and protection under this legislation.


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