Whistleblowing, broadly defined, occurs when an employee goes to the authorities or the media to report their employer’s illegal activities. Whistleblower claims commonly involve violations of regulations, like wage theft or disability accommodation issues. In other cases, an employee might be reporting entire business models based on criminal activity. The highest profile whistleblower cases —those that we occasionally see working their way onto the mainstream news — typically involve federal government or military personnel leaking dramatic state secrets, but it’s important to understand that everyday whistleblowing in the corporate world can be just as consequential in many cases.
Although every person acts according to their own motivations and values, whistleblowers can broadly be seen as advocates for a better working environment, which, in turn, makes them a powerful driver for a better society. In California, employees enjoy robust protection under various state and federal laws when reporting illegal activities, discrimination, sexual harassment, and all manner of other workplace violations.
Corporate Whistleblowing Protects Workers and Society From Illegal Activities
California Employment Counsel, APC is a law firm with an intimate understanding of federal and state employment law, including whistleblower claims. Our Los Angeles whistleblower attorneys know whistleblower laws and can help protect employees who have reported (or who are planning to report) regulatory violations, harassment, wrongful termination, and other illegal activities taking place at their work.
We understand that coming forward as a whistleblower can be a difficult and anxiety-inducing decision, so we are here to provide compassionate and powerful legal support to whistleblowers. These brave folks are willing to risk their reputation at their workplace to ensure their coworkers, and working Californians more generally, are being treated fairly on the job and not subject to criminal behavior by a rogue corporation. We are proud to stand with them.
While it is natural to worry about what will happen to your job if you step up and report illegal activity, it’s also important to understand that federal rules and California whistleblower laws offer robust protections to whistleblowers. Employees who report illegal activities by their employer are protected by several laws and regulations:
Protect employees from retaliation (firing, demotion, cut hours, etc.) for the act of whistleblowing
Discrimination and harassment at work are already illegal, but whistleblower laws further codify that it is a criminal offense to harass or discriminate against an employee for whistleblowing
Specific protections for those who report violations of workplace safety laws and environmental regulations
Protect employees who refuse to participate in their employer’s illegal activities. If an employee loses their job (or faces other illegal retaliation) for refusing to engage in illegal activities, they may be able to file a wrongful termination claim thanks to some of the same legal principles that will protect them when blowing the whistle on their employer’s wrongdoing.
Understanding Whistleblower Protections in Context
Whistleblowing cases might be brought to court under a number of different state and federal laws. Here are some of the key laws and policies relevant to whistleblower activity:
California Whistleblower Protection Act. Established in the state’s Government Code Section 8547.1, this law protects state employees who report improper government activity (like safety issues, fraud, or waste) from government retaliation.
Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This 2002 federal law is known for several important financial reforms that update a number of previous federal statutes. One part of the act protects employees of publicly traded companies who report violations of securities laws.
False Claims Act (FCA). The FCA is another key federal law intended to create accountability for those in positions of influence. One of its major functions is to punish anyone who knowingly submits false claims to a government official or agency. The FCA applies to whistleblower activity because it additionally allows private citizens to file “qui tam” suits on behalf of the government against those who have defrauded the government in a legally actionable way. These whistleblowers under the FCA can even receive a portion of any funds recovered.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). OSHA is well known by most workers, especially those who work in potentially hazardous environments or with dangerous equipment. This law also includes provisions to protect workers who report violations of these key workplace safety laws.
Whistleblowers in California, therefore, enjoy comprehensive protection from retaliation by their employer, sometimes under multiple laws at once. Unfortunately, we know that not every employer always follows the law.
Illegal retaliation for whistleblowing can take many forms in real life:
Wrongful termination or contrived layoffs
Demotions or unwanted reassignments
Denial of promotions or new assignments
Cutting hours or benefits
Instructing other employees to participate in retaliation or retaliate on the company’s behalf through bullying or ostracizing
Harassment, with or without the goal of making you quit your job voluntarily
Employers who retaliate against whistleblowers can be held accountable in court. If you have information about illegal activity at your work and are interested in blowing the proverbial whistle, contact California Employment Counsel, APC for a no-pressure consultation before making your next move.
We can help you understand exactly which laws and statutes your whistleblowing is protected under, and if your employer attempts to retaliate, we will represent you assertively in all proceedings. We’ll develop a robust legal strategy to steer the case toward a beneficial outcome, protecting your reputation, your career, and your future. This is in addition to all of the current and future employees who will enjoy a safer, healthier, and happier workplace thanks to your brave and selfless decision to do the right thing.
The Importance of Whistleblowing
Whistleblowing is an important act that protects employees, future employees, and society at large from illegal activities. Employees who report illegal activities don’t just stand up for themselves. They help protect their coworkers and customers, and they ensure we maintain a business climate of lawful operation and respect for workers’ rights. Whistleblowers aren’t just putting their foot down when an employer goes too far — they’re also preventing untold harm to consumers, the environment, and the greater American workplace culture.
Whistleblowing is undeniably important, but on a practical level, the way you go about blowing the whistle will also be incredibly important. For one, it’s important to report illegal activity as soon as possible. There are strict deadlines for filing whistleblower claims, similar to a statute of limitations for a criminal case, but potentially on an even tighter timeline. Delaying the reporting of illegal activity may weaken your case and limit your options for legal recourse.
It is crucial that you complete every step of the process completely and on deadline. Despite often being characterized otherwise in the media, California has an extremely business-friendly legal climate, and this can hurt you in a whistleblowing case if you fail to heed every detail — details that can be overwhelming to someone without formal legal training. A good Los Angeles whistleblower attorney can help keep the case on track and provide peace of mind that all paperwork has been filled out and filed correctly.
Whistleblowing isn’t just important on the principles of accountability and the greater good. A successful whistleblower case can have major practical implications on your life. This is to say that certain types of whistleblower claims, or separate lawsuits under the same issues, may result in substantial monetary awards for the whistleblower. Depending on the specific laws invoked and the amount of damages involved, whistleblowers may be entitled to a percentage of the funds recovered in a pursuant case. Your attorney will fight to assert your right to this award.
In addition to potential financial compensation, whistleblowers may also be able to get reinstated in their previous position, as well as receive back pay if they were wrongfully terminated or suffered other damages as a result of their whistleblowing. Your whistleblower lawyer can help you explore all available remedies under the law and then aggressively pursue the one that is correct for you.
California Employment Counsel, APC: Top Rated Employment Lawyers for California Whistleblower Claim
If you believe you have been retaliated against at work for reporting illegal activities or other violations, you should consult with an experienced employment lawyer as your first step. The California Employment Counsel, APC, gives each case individual attention and creates detail-oriented strategies to help protect your rights, hold criminal employers accountable, and ensure that you receive any compensation you may be entitled to. Our Los Angeles whistleblower attorneys are tireless and effective advocates for the working people of California and will fight to protect your rights until the case is resolved.
Our experienced and dedicated attorneys are available to:
Provide legal counsel and representation in hearings, negotiations, and other proceedings.
Investigate the claim, gather evidence, and analyze every detail to build the strongest possible case for your claim.
Negotiate with your employer on your behalf. This can be an important aspect of the case if you are pursuing a settlement as part of your strategy—or just to make sure your employer understands the potential consequences of illegal retaliation related to your protected whistleblower status.
Help you understand the full breadth of your legal options and rights under state and federal law.
File a claim — if appropriate or necessary, your whistleblower lawyer can also help you file a claim against your employer or another party relevant to the case.