Protection for Whistleblowers Under California Employment Law

Whistleblowers have taken the initiative to bring attention to their employer’s illegal behavior or breaches of the public’s trust, such as environmental violations or shady workplace safety procedures. It should come as no surprise that some employers may object to such reporting or, worse yet, take adverse action. 

Laws have been created to safeguard whistleblowers from retaliation and to encourage others to come out when they become aware of illegal behavior. This section offers resources and information about whistleblower laws, how to handle retaliation for making a whistleblower complaint, and other topics. When thinking about “blowing the whistle” on your company, it is crucial to educate oneself.

Federal Law Protection for Whistleblowers

An employee who complains about safety or health hazards at work or in the environment that an employer is causing is protected by federal law, including:

  • Toxic Substance Control Act
  • Solid Waste Disposal Act
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response
  • Water Pollution Control Act
  • Clean Air Act
  • Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
  • Energy Reorganization Act

Employees who have a good faith belief that their employer is breaking the law and report the apparent infringement to either their employer or a federal agency are protected under these laws. The employee is still protected even if the company is ultimately compliant.

Within thirty days of the retaliatory action, an employee who believes they have been victimized for filing a complaint must file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Are there laws protecting employees from whistleblower retaliation in California?

California has many statutes that address various circumstances and provide whistleblower protection. The following laws are the most crucial ones to prevent whistleblower retaliation:

  • General whistleblower protection, California Labor Code 1102.5 LC.
  • Wage/hour and other labor violation reports, California Labor Code 98.6 LC.
  • Occupational health and safety reports, California Labor Code 6310 LC.
  • Whistleblower protection for public employees, Government Code 8547 GC et seq.
  • Whistleblower protection and related laws (qui tam, FEHA retaliation, Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank).
  • Whistleblower protection for healthcare workers and patients, Health & Safety Code 1278.5.
  • Reporting by School Employees of Improper Governmental Activities Act, Education Code Code 44110.
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What to Do If You’ve Been Fired for Whistleblowing

The correct thing to do is to alert management to workplace safety dangers or to speak up when a colleague is harassed. Some employers take offense when a worker discloses irregularities or illegal activities. You might be eligible to claim whistleblower protection if you were dismissed or demoted after disclosing workplace infractions.

  1. Labor Code 1102.5

Before filing a lawsuit against your company for allegedly breaking Labor Code 1102.5 LC’s whistleblower protections, you should send certified mail to your employer and an online form to the California Labor and Workplace Development Agency. 

The Labor and Workplace Development Agency could look into your complaint independently after you submit this notice. You must be notified within 65 days if it decides not to comply with this requirement; at that instance, you could bring in your claim.

  • Damages You Could Receive

Compensation for suffering and emotional distress brought on by the whistleblower’s reprisal can involve making up for emotional distress, physical discomfort, loss of consortium, sadness, anxiety, or embarrassment.

  1. California State Workers

The procedure is slightly different if you are a victim of whistleblower retaliation under the California Whistleblower Protection Act, which pertains to state government employees. You must register a complaint with the California State Personnel Board before suing the government organization that hired you.

  • Damages You Could Receive

The State Personnel Board will investigate your whistleblower protection violation complaint under the state employees’ whistleblower protection act. The Board may impose the following remedies or damages if it finds that you were the victim of whistleblower retaliation:

  • Promotion to your prior post.
  • Money owed.
  • Receiving back any lost service credit.
  • Damages for compensation.
  • Erasure of any adverse employment history brought on by the retaliatory.
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Labor Code 98.6 and 6310

You may also file a claim about this whistleblower retaliation with the California Labor Commissioner if your employer retaliates against you for reporting labor or  OHS law infractions, violating Labor Code 98.6 or 6310.

However, you are not obligated to. If you would rather, you can skip this step and file a case right away with the help of your California employment lawyer.

  • Damages You Could Receive

The Labor Commissioner could find that a whistleblower protection breach happened after looking into the whistleblower retaliation allegation and could require that your employer:

  • Reinstate you in your prior position or rehire you.
  • Compensate you for any lost salary together with interest.
  • Pay the attorney’s fees incurred during the investigation.

If you are a whistleblower in California, you may be protected under state law. This protection can come in the form of time off with pay, severance pay, and attorney’s fees. If you need help finding out if you are protected or have questions about what to do if you feel like a whistleblower, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced employment lawyer.

By chamsipirson chamsipirson

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