For a whistleblower who learns that a company, often their employer, is engaged in fraud on the government, the decision to blow the whistle can be overwhelming. Your reputation, career, and sometimes your safety may be at stake. But protections exist to shield whistleblowers, particularly those represented by experienced whistleblower counsel.
Who is protected?
Pursuant to California Labor Code Section 1102.5, employees are the protected class of individuals. “Employee” means any person employed by an employer, private or public, including, but not limited to, individuals employed by the state or any subdivision thereof, any county, city, city and county, including any charter city or county, and any school district, community college district, municipal or public corporation, political subdivision, or the University of California.
What is a whistleblower?
A “whistleblower” is an employee who discloses information to a government or law enforcement agency, person with authority over the employee, or to another employee with authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or who provides information to or testifies before a public body conducting an investigation, hearing or inquiry, where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses:
A violation of a state or federal statute,
A violation or noncompliance with a local, state or federal rule or regulation, or
With reference to employee safety or health, unsafe working conditions or work practices in the employee’s employment or place of employment.
A whistleblower can also be an employee who refuses to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of a state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state or federal rule or regulation.
What protections are afforded to whistleblowers?
An employer may not make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy preventing an employee from being a whistleblower.
An employer may not retaliate against an employee who is a whistleblower.
An employer may not retaliate against an employee for refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of a state or federal statute, or a violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation.
An employer may not retaliate against an employee for having exercised his or her rights as a whistleblower in any former employment.
Under California Labor Code Section 1102.5, if an employer retaliates against a whistleblower, the employer may be required to reinstate the employee’s employment and work benefits, pay lost wages, and take other steps necessary to comply with the law.
Determining whether you are a whistleblower depends on the specific facts of your case.