Most people instinctively want to act in a good and law-abiding manner. However, when your boss has a different plan, this isn't always easy. Thankfully, federal and state regulations shield workers from workplace harassment and wrongful firing based on public policy violations (also known as whistleblower cases). You might need an Employment Attorney to collect payable damages.

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Whistleblower laws are intended to allow workers to disclose misconduct by their employers and to engage in inquiries and civil proceedings without fear of retaliation. According to California law, employers cannot retaliate against an employee who expresses his or her legal right to engage in the judicial or investigative process or who reports illegal activity to his or her employer.

Defining What a "Whistleblower" Is

An employee who exposes criminal activity is known as a whistleblower (such as fraud, tax evasion, or similar white-collar crimes). In California, however, any employee who reports the criminal activity of any sort to his or her employer or to a government agency and is either retaliated against or dismissed is entitled to legal immunity.

The Federal Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, as amended by the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, protects federal workers who disclose wrongdoing inside government agencies, such as proof of bribery, waste, or violence. The Act's stated goal is to protect federal workers who report government waste, corruption, and illegality in the public interest. To that end, the Act forbids federal contractors from retaliating against workers who make whistleblower complaints. Following regulations, these safeguards have been improved. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your Cal Bar Attorney Search.

Whistleblowers in California are covered by state laws

The following is a list of the most relevant whistleblower laws that apply to workers in California who provide services:

Government Code Section 12650, et seq., is the California False Claims Act (protects employees who complain billing fraud and other fraudulent activities towards the state or other governmental bodies). California's Qui Tam act is another name for this legislation. It stipulates treble damages. The False Claims Act (FCA) is a federal law that prohibits private contractors from presenting false or fraudulent invoices or engaging in other practices in order to obtain overpayment from the government for goods or services. The FCA requires that actions be filed under seal, with notification to the state or political subdivision. The state also has a certain amount of time to investigate the allegations.

According to Government Code section 12652(c)(6), after examining a claim brought by a private citizen, the state or political subdivision whose funds are involved may elect or refuse to interfere in the case. "The prosecution shall be taken by the Attorney General, and the seal shall be lifted" in situations where the state intervenes. "The seal shall be removed, and the qui tam applicant shall have the right to conduct the action" if the state fails to interfere.

The management of an action in which the state has interfered is governed by Gov. Code 12652(e)(1). "If the state or political subdivision continues with the action, the state or political subdivision shall have primary responsibility for prosecuting the action," it says. In cases where interference has occurred, the law also specifies the interests of qui tam claimants. "The qui tam applicant shall have the right to participate in the action as a complete party." Identified. And if the qui tam complainant has objected, the state has the right to dismiss or settle cases.

The Whistleblower Protection Act of California. Section 8547.1 et seq. of the Government Code (Allows state employees to report waste, fraud, violations of law, or health or safety threats, and to be free from retaliation for doing so). The California Whistleblower Protection Act was passed after the state legislature determined that state employees should be able to disclose waste, bribery, misuse of power, law violations, or threats to public health without fear of retaliation. The Legislature also discovered and declared that public officials better represent the citizens when they can be candid and truthful in conducting the people's business without reservation. According to Government Code Section 19683, allegations of breaches of whistleblower laws by state employees will be reviewed by the state personnel board.

The most widely used retaliation/whistleblower law in California is Section 1102.5. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report details, actions, activity, or other activities that they reasonably believe could violate a local, state, or federal law, rule, or regulation under Labor Code Section 1102.5. According to the legislation, employers cannot discipline an employee for refusing to engage in an action that would result in a breach of a local, state, or federal rule or regulation.

A case claiming violations of Labor Code Section 1102.5 requires the Plaintiff employee to prove the following by a preponderance of the evidence:

  • He or she was involved in a protected operation
  • That he or she has been subjected to retaliation at work (such as a demotion, negative performance evaluation, decrease in pay, benefits, or termination)
  • That the covered conduct and the adverse employment action are connected in some way.

When an employee files a retaliation claim under Labor Code Section 1102.5, he or she can use circumstantial evidence (by demonstrating a near temporal association between the allegation and the adverse employment action) or direct evidence (such as an e-mail from a supervisor complaining about the employee's reporting of illegal activities).

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Employees of health care facilities are protected from retaliation for disclosing matters impacting patient safety under California's Health and Safety Code Section 1278, et seq. No health care facility can discriminate or retaliate against anyone who has "presented a grievance, complaint, or report to the facility," according to Health and Safety Code 1278.5(b)(1)(A).

An anti-SLAPP lawsuit claims that the Plaintiff's lawsuit was brought with the intent of preventing the filing party from exercising her/his/its free speech rights.

In one case, the hospital's claims were dismissed by the court. The Health and Safety Code, it concluded, prohibits retaliation against someone who files a complaint or grievance about patient safety. It was decided that the anti-SLAPP rules would extend to defamation and process abuse cases.

The court held that the peer review committee could only reverse a decision if the underlying decision was "arbitrary and capricious" and that requiring a party to appeal those decisions in court would limit an individual's right to redress under the law if they were allowed to exhaust the administrative remedy. In its opinion, the court expressed concern about interpreting Health and Safety Code Section 1278 in a way that would make it more difficult for a future whistleblower to seek redress under the law. When the supposed adverse decision was based on whistleblowing, the court expressed concerns that a different decision would result in delays caused by a requirement that the group seeks judicial review of the final administrative decision.

What things are covered by California law, and who is protected?

Labor Code Section 1102.5 contains general anti-retaliation prohibitions that extend to a wide range of circumstances. The law is rather broad, and it may cover grievances that are protected by other regulations, such as the Health and Safety Code, worker's compensation rules, and the prohibitions against disclosing unlawful discrimination and abuse in Government Code Section 12940, et seq, also known as "FEHA" (The Fair Employment and Housing Act).

Some examples of covered grievances are as follows:

Retaliation for filing a lawsuit alleging discrimination based on a protected characteristic: such as race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical impairment, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, or sexual orientation, is unlawful under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). 12940 of the California Government Code. An employee does not retaliate against another employee for filing a lawsuit, testifying, or assisting in a FEHA proceeding. The FEHA forbids, among other things, job discrimination based on race.

Hazardous substances: Under California's Hazardous Substances Information and Training Act, an employer can not discriminate against an employee for filing a lawsuit, initiating a proceeding, testifying in a proceeding, or exercising a right. 6399.7 is a California laboratory code.

Health-care facilities: An employee of a health-care facility will not be retaliated against for filing a grievance/complaint or initiating a government inquiry into the health-care provider's operations relating to patient care, service, treatment, or protection: 1278.5, 1432 of the California Health and Safety Code.

Occupational safety and health: An employer does not retaliate against an employee who files a complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, any other federal agency responsible for workplace safety or health, the employer, or the employee's representative (in writing or orally). Furthermore, an employer does not discriminate against an employee who refuses to work under conditions that are in violation of health and safety laws. 6310, 6311 (California Laboratory Codes)

Workers' compensation: An employer does not retaliate against a worker who files a claim for workers' compensation. It is a crime for an employer to retaliate in this way. In the same way, an employer cannot fire an employee for testifying in a coworker's workers' compensation case—132a of the California Laboratory Code.

Employers' Efforts to Get Away from Whistleblower Protection Laws

The California Whistleblower Protection Act's laws demonstrate how far some employers would go to find a loophole in whistleblower safeguards (such as retaliating against the family member of a whistleblower instead of the protected employee). Another common tactic is to invent other excuses for an employee's firing, demotion, pay cut, or other adjustments to their work terms and conditions.

Employers outside of California are also better able to escape prosecution because federal whistleblower rules are more restrictive in their applicability. Federal whistleblower rules do not apply unless the employee works for a federal agency or a publicly traded corporation. This can also be a challenge for Californians who work for national corporations remotely. In such cases, the employer can try to argue that its home state's labor laws, rather than California's, apply.

Retaliation in the Workplace

Most retaliation cases include an employee who reports workplace discrimination, abuse, or criminal activity and is demoted, fired, or otherwise treated unfairly as a result. It may also involve employees who refuse to engage in unlawful workplace practices in certain situations. Retaliation is unfortunately all too popular in California.

Both internal complaints by workers alleging violations of the rule, raising safety concerns, or otherwise alleging unethical activities are covered thanks to new changes to California's whistleblower statutes. So, even if an employee has not filed a complaint with a government agency such as OSHA, the employee is shielded from retaliation for filing an internal complaint alleging illegal activity inside the organization.

The length of time between the complaint and the retaliation is a critical aspect that courts consider when deciding if the complaint was a "motivating factor" in the adverse employment action. It's also crucial to establish causation evidence. As a result, it's important to show that the decision-makers were aware of the complaint. Contact an accomplished retaliation lawyer to help you through your case.

Employees in the health-care industry are entitled to additional anti-retaliation protections. The Health and Safety Code enshrines these safeguards. If you work in the medical sector, contact The Law Offices of Daniel Feder to see if you have a lawsuit.

Some employers or managers use one unfortunate employee as an example to deter other employees from:

  • Filing grievances
  • Making a claim for workers' compensation
  • Using the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to file a complaint
  • Reporting unhealthy, unsanitary, or hazardous working conditions
  • Taking a stand against shady financial practices and bank fraud
  • Wages, overtime, and benefits are not being paid, and employees are complaining
  • Notifying a county, city, state, or federal agency about fraudulent practices
  • Sexual abuse in the workplace was reported
  • Pregnancy, maternity, or a family member's illness, as described by the California Family Rights Act and/or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • In a corporate prosecution or civil action, supporting a coworker's accusation of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, or other unfair activity.
  • Reporting illegal activity in the organization as a whistleblower

Whistleblower Claims for Wrongful Termination

Multiple laws shield workers in California who are fired for complaining about criminal actions or reporting illegal activity to law enforcement or regulators.

Employers cannot retaliate against you for disclosing actions you reasonably consider to be illegal to anyone at the organization (for example, by appealing to Human Resources or calling a whistleblower hotline) or to a government agency, according to Labor Code 1102.5. Employers are also lawfully prohibited from retaliating against you if you refuse to engage in unlawful activity, according to Section 1102.5. You are shielded from retaliation if you were fired for reporting illegal activity internally or to law enforcement or even refusing to engage directly in the illegal conduct.

Furthermore, people who are fired for reporting illegal behavior may have a claim for "wrongful termination in breach of public policy."

What To Do If I Believe I Am Entitled to Compensation?

If you think you have knowledge that could be used in a whistleblower lawsuit, you can treat the case with caution and strategy.

  • Keep records - Save any evidence of misconduct, such as statements from conversations, meetings, and other relevant documents.
  • Report your complaints - Report breaches in accordance with your company's rules, and make sure to obey your boss's instructions.
  • Consult a employment lawyer - Act quickly and retain the services of a Employment Attorney as soon as possible. In order to protect your rights, your counsel will advise you about how to proceed and how to handle yourself during the investigation.

When do I file a California whistleblower retaliation claim?

Suppose your employer has retaliated against you for exercising your rights as a worker, file a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit. If you believe you have been retaliated against by your employer in violation of California labor law, you must file a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit as soon as possible.

  • In cases of whistleblower retaliation, an employee has 90 days to 6 years to file a lawsuit. Despite the fact that the statute of limitations can take many years, it is important for workers to move quickly to collect the proof they need to prosecute their case. Nonetheless, any whistleblower retaliation allegation must be investigated and prepared for several months before going to court.
  • If an employee believes their employer is engaging in illegal activities, they have the right to file a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit. It's always a good idea for a whistleblower retaliation survivor to keep track of all of the events that happened in order to build a stronger case for unlawful whistleblower retaliation.

When it Leads to Wrongful Termination

A wrongful termination suit can be filed by an employee who was fired for unfair purposes, for exercising their legal rights, or for violating an employment contract. When an employer terminates an employee's employment agreement in breach of the employee's civil rights, this is known as wrongful termination.

Despite the fact that California is an "at-will" jurisdiction. This means that an employer or employee can be fired at any time and for any lawful reason, with or without cause, and with or without advance notice.

Nonetheless, unfair termination lawsuits arise in California, where state and federal statutes expressly bar employers from dismissing workers for a variety of illegal reasons. According to California termination rules, firing an employee for an illegal cause is unfair termination.

Do You Have a Case for Wrongful Termination?

Other than the anti-discrimination clauses, you might have a case for unfair termination if you were dismissed for the following reasons:

  • Whistleblowing
  • Referencing an employment or labor protection law to insist the right to not be discriminated against or threatened in the workplace.
  • Taking leave to vote or serve on a jury
  • Filing a Family and Medical Leave Act for personal reasons
  • Reporting an incidence of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace
  • Military deployment

You may have a case for wrongful termination, whether you were fired officially or were compelled to resign due to intolerable working conditions or a hostile work climate. Constructive discharge is the term for this.

In California, there are several exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine

California is ahead of many other states when it comes to defending a person's right to gainful employment by prohibiting wrongful dismissal, and it acknowledges three legal exceptions to the "at-will" doctrine:

  • The termination was made for reasons that were illegal under California law.
  • The termination of the employee violated an implicit employment contract, such as when an employer has made verbal or written promises of continued employment, such as in employment manuals, written policies, or other written communications.
  • In the employer-employee relationship, the employer broke an implicit bond of good faith and fair dealing. The good faith bond is open to interpretation, which opens the door to proving unjust termination for a dismissal that was either intentional or without fair cause.

In California, may I sue my employer for wrongful termination?

If you believe you were wrongfully dismissed, you will be entitled to file a complaint and recover damages from your employer. In certain cases, a successful wrongful termination lawsuit would allow you to reclaim your work.

Depending on the alleged wrongful firing circumstances, filing a case in court might not be the first move. It's possible that filing an administrative complaint with a government agency is needed first. A wrongful termination lawsuit based on a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, for example, should first be filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

What Will I Recover if I File a Wrongful Termination Case and Win?

Each case is unique, and you should consult an Employment Attorney to learn more about the types of damages you may be entitled to if your claim is successful. However, the following are examples of traditional damages that might be applicable in your case:

  • Wages that have been lost (including back pay and front pay, benefits)
  • You will also be entitled to recover damages for emotional distress (depending not the type of case you bring)
  • You might also be entitled to punitive damages (depending on the type of case you file and if the employer's actions were particularly egregious)
  • You would be able to recoup the legal fees and expenses as well

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, it is important that you consult with an Employment Attorney who will educate you on your legal options. Wrongful termination lawsuits are routinely handled by our prescreened Employment Attorneys in California.

In California, how long do you have to file a wrongful termination lawsuit?

Your wrongful termination case must be filed under the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations determines how long a plaintiff has to file a complaint after being injured. The nature of your claim will determine the length of time you have to file your claim and whether or not you had an employment contract with your employer. The statute of limitations begins to run on the date of termination in all cases.

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If the case is focused on a breach of an implicit oral contract or a violation of public policy, the statute of limitations is two years. A lawsuit relying on state whistleblower rights has a three-year statute of limitations. An employee has 180 days to file a complaint with the US Department of Labor if their claim is focused on whistleblower rights under federal law.

Discrimination lawsuits involving a breach of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) or the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) must be filed within three years. A complaint lodged with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing should be the first step in any FEHA claim.

How an Employment Attorney Should Assist in Protecting the Legal Rights of Whistleblowers

The process of filing a whistleblower report is taxing on an employee, even in the best of circumstances. Since making a whistleblower report can jeopardize an employee's job, financial interests, and even personal safety, an employee must develop an effective plan before making a report.

An experienced whistleblower lawyer would be able to assist whistleblowers in developing such a plan. Effective legal tactics may aid in the protection of whistleblowers (and, in certain limited cases, anonymity). They should also discuss the potential negative effects of a whistleblower's actions, such as job loss, social isolation, and the stigma that comes with blowing the whistle on an employer (which can cause an entire industry or employers in the geographic location to shun the employee).

In some cases, strategically using media attention will assist in bolstering the whistleblower's allegations. Employers, on the other hand, can use public statements against a whistleblower in court. Any public comments must be carefully timed and approved by an experienced employment lawyer. Connecting with whistleblower advocacy groups and networks will also help the whistleblower find social support during what can be an isolating and traumatic phase.

In the end, a whistleblower lawsuit almost always exposes an individual employee to the wrath of a large corporation, department, or government. This is why whistleblowers need employment lawyers who can assist them in obtaining full legal defense. The whistleblower will be able to plan plans for his or her defense and offset the employer's power with some of his or her own by drawing on an attorney's expertise.

What if the whistleblower is incorrect?

There are clearly instances where the whistleblower was wrong about some violation of federal or state law, policy, or rule.

On this point, the whistleblower laws are crystal clear. According to Labor Code Section 1102.5(b), a whistleblower employee is shielded and afforded all of the same privileges under the whistleblower laws as long as they have "reasonable cause to believe" that there was a breach of law or regulation.

Find A Whistleblower Retaliation Attorney in California

Making the courageous decision to inform law enforcement or government officials that you believe your employer has broken federal or state law can be frightening and daunting. is a California Bar Association Certified Free Attorney Referral Service that can refer you to the best Employment Lawyer that's fit to handle your unique case. Contact us through our 24/7 live chat or complete our case submission form for a free initial consultation.