Understanding Whistleblower Protections for California Employees
Whistleblowing is when an employee reports violations of the law by their employer. This action has legal protection that helps ensure employees can report misconduct or illegal activity without fear of retribution. California has some of the most robust worker protections in the country, so employees in California enjoy some of the strongest whistleblower protections. We will explore what whistleblower protections California employees have and the various forms of retaliation prohibited by law. By understanding these protections, employees can be confident that they can speak out about any unethical or illegal activity in their workplace without fear of repercussions.
What Is a Whistleblower?
A whistleblower is someone who reveals a violation of a law, regulation, or public policy to the government, a supervisor, or another employee authorized to investigate. The information they reveal might be about misconduct, illegal activity, or fraud within an organization. Employees, former employees, contractors, or even members of the public who wish to bring awareness to and stop any injustices they have witnessed or experienced can be whistleblowers.
California Whistleblower Protections
California’s Whistleblower Protection Act (California Labor Code 1102.5) protects whistleblower employees in California. It prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for reporting violations of law or noncompliance with local, state, or federal rules or regulations. Firing an employee for whistleblowing is a form of wrongful termination and is prohibited under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
In addition, California Government Code Section 8547.1 extends whistleblower protections to employees of government agencies. This provision declares that, in addition to law violations, state employees should also be free to report “waste, fraud, abuse of authority” and “threats to public health” without fear of retribution.
What Activities Are Protected Under California’s Whistleblower Laws?
California law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against an employee for blowing the whistle on them. Employees are often the first or only witnesses when their employers break the law. For that reason, California lawmakers enacted various whistleblower protection laws to encourage employees to report any illegal activity without fear for their jobs or other consequences.
The California Supreme Court examined California Labor Code 1102.5 and found that it protects all employee whistleblowers in California, regardless of the size of their employer. Section 1102.5 prohibits an employer from taking adverse action against an employee for reporting information they reasonably believe discloses a violation of the law. This law also protects employees from retaliation for refusing to participate in an activity that would violate the law.
What Counts as Retaliation Under the California Whistleblower Laws?
Whistleblowers have protection from employer retaliation for speaking out and reporting unlawful practices in the workplace. Retaliation can take many forms and may be subtle or overt. Common examples of retaliation against a whistleblower include demotion, termination, failure to promote, change in job duties, denial of training, threats, and preventing access to pay or benefits. In some cases, the forms of retaliation are more nuanced and may not be immediately obvious. Consult with a knowledgeable California whistleblower lawyer who can help identify retaliation and obtain evidence to prove it.
Remedies Under the Whistleblower Law
If an employer takes retaliatory action against a whistleblower, potential remedies are available under the California Whistleblower Protection Act. They include reinstatement, lost wages, back pay, and compensation for emotional distress. The employer has the burden of proving that the retaliatory action was unrelated to any whistleblowing activity. A whistleblower can receive compensation for losses incurred due to the employer’s retaliation if the claim is successful.
Speak With a California Whistleblower Lawyer
Whether you’re considering blowing the whistle or have experienced retaliation for reporting illegal or unethical activities, Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP, can help you navigate the process. Contact us today to find out how we can help you through an initial legal consultation with an experienced California whistleblower attorney.