As a business owner, you must ensure that your workplace is free from any discrimination or harassment. Employees have the right to work in a safe environment, and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits workplace harassment and discrimination of employees based several factors including race, religion, and sex. California law clearly states that employees have the right to report any kind of discrimination or harassment. As a business owner in California, you need to know your obligations regarding retaliation against any employee for exercising those rights under the law. 

Workplace Discrimination in San Francisco 

As a California business owner, if you have knowledge that an employee has filed a report of discrimination or harassment, they should take a great deal of caution regarding any actual or perceived adverse or negative employment action against that employee. Even if you have a substantial and legitimate business reason to take action against an employee who has filed a discrimination or harassment claim, waiting until the resolution of the discrimination or harassment claim can avoid any additional legal issues as well as avoid any appearance of impropriety.  

When Workplace Discrimination Leads to Retaliation

Under California Labor Code Section 1102.5, an employee can sue his or her employer in California for retaliation if the following elements of a discrimination or harassment claim are met: 

  • The employee reported the employer’s discrimination and/or harassment activity in an appropriate manner to either an appropriate government agency or the human resources department or supervisor of the company.
  • The employer then reacted against this complaint by subsequently retaliating against the employee through a negative action, such as a termination, loss of benefits, demotion, or other adverse employment action.
  • The two events listed above are related. 

California Business Owners and Personal Liability

It is important to note that California business owners as well as any supervisors or managers  may actually face personal liability for any proven retaliation against an employee who has legally and appropriately filed a workplace harassment or discrimination complaint. Under the SB-1038 California Fair Employment and Housing Act, business owners and their management staff can be held personally liable “for certain actions in connection with violating the prohibition against discharging or discrimination against a person who has opposed any practices prohibited by these provisions or has filed a complaint, testified, or assisted in any proceeding for a violation.”  

Contact Coepio Legal

If you are a business owner in California with five or more employees, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) applies to you. You must create and enforce harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention policies. Contacting an experienced business attorney can help you develop these policies and understand your rights and obligations as an employer. 

Coepio Legal specializes in business legal advice for startups and small businesses, especially in San Francisco. Being a business owner carries with it a great deal of responsibility and obligation. As experienced business attorneys, we can help you understand those obligations.  Contact us today to get started. 


It is an exciting decision to start your own business.


Growing your business is exciting; with growth comes new.


There’s more to business exits than just dissolution.


When problems arise in business, Coepio Legal is on call.