A Whistle blower employee is an informant who exposes a crime, or wrongdoing, taking place within the organization in the hope of stopping it. If you are considering becoming a whistle blower, or if you have been retaliated for reporting a misdeed you should be aware of your rights.
Approximately 50 years ago, unless you had an employment contract, or were a member of a labor union, you were considered an at will employee. The “at will employment doctrine” holds that an employee can be terminated for any reason, at any time and without any compensation. Recently, many exceptions to this rigid rule have emerged from the court system, as well as from state and federal legislatures.
California Public Policy
California recognizes a public policy in favor of encouraging and protecting Whistle Blowers and a Whistle blower employee terminated in retaliation for his actions has a cause of action for wrongful discharge when the motivation for his discharge violates public policy. The public policy must serve the interests of the general public in order to be protected. In other words, if the misdeed exposed serves only a private company interest, even though other employees benefit, the employee may not be protected from retaliation under the common law.
Furthermore, California has adopted the California Whistle Blower Protection Act that is a general whistleblower protection statute which protects employees who disclose illegal activity or refuse to participate in illegal activities. Also, several other state statutes include anti-retaliation language. Whistle blower protection extends to future employment as well as employees may not be retaliated against by future employers for performing certain protected activities. Cal.Lab. Code sec. 1102.5
In general a California Whistleblower may not be retaliated against by an employee for reporting suspected crimes, or suspected violations of state or federal law to a government agency, or law enforcement agency even if the employer turns out that the employer was not actually violating the law. Also, the California law permits employees to refuse to participate in illegal activities without a fear of retaliation; and prevents an employer from adopting a policy that prevents an employee from disclosing suspected violations of state or federal law to a law enforcement agency, or a person with authority to investigate, or correct the violation.
The California Office of Internal Affairs reviews and processes retaliation complaints to determine if the minimum requirements of a complaint ( a prima facia case) have been meet and can be established. Complaints can come from a variety of sources, including victims of retaliation, the hiring authority, or other State agencies. The time deadline, or California statute of limitations, for filing a complaint is two years from the date of retaliation.
In addition, to California state statutes, the Federal Government has enacted laws that afford whistle blower employees additional protection.
If you think you are the victim of retaliation by your employer due to exposing some misdeeds within your company, or if you are concerned about your Whistle blower protection rights please contact the Brod Law Firm for a no cost case evaluation