California whistleblower protection laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who complain about or report suspected illegal activity. If you believe you’ve faced whistleblower retaliation, your employer should be held accountable. To help understand your legal options, some of the most important laws are explained below.
What Is Whistleblower Retaliation?
Actions of retaliation against an employee for reporting a whistleblower claim include:
- Physical, verbal, or legal threats
- Denial of promotion
- Wrongful termination
- Denial of access to training
- Denial of resources needed to perform job duties
What Are the California Whistleblower Retaliation Laws?
The California Labor Code requires whistleblower laws and responsibilities to be listed in the workplace, while employees must be permitted to testify in court, file a discrimination compliant, and engage in other protected activities. Specific laws and statutes in the state’s Government Code include:
- California Labor Code Section 1102.5: The state’s most general whistleblower statute, it prevents employers from retaliating against a worker who reports information, improper conduct or behavior, or any activity the employee reasonably believes may violate a local, state, or federal regulation. An employer can neither prevent an employee from disclosing information to a law enforcement/government agency or retaliate against them for doing so. Violating this law is a misdemeanor crime; individuals can face a $1,000 fine and/or up to a year in a county jail. Corporate violators can be fined up to $5,000.
- California Whistleblower Protection Act / Government Code 8547 GC et seq: Protects state employees who report fraud, waste, health/safety threats, and other violations of the law. It was created by the state legislature with the belief that public employees best serve the citizenry when they can be open and honest without fear of retribution. A 2014 amendment strengthened the law to cover anyone acting on behalf of an employer, including an independent contractor or third-party consulting agency. Whistleblowers who face adverse actions may be compensated for lost wages and benefits, attorney’s fees, and be awarded punitive damages in cases involving malicious acts.
- Labor Code 98.6 LC: Provides whistleblower protections for employees who report Labor Code violations to the California Labor Commissioner. These are usually wage and hour violations involving complaints about being paid less than minimum wage, being denied meal and rest breaks, or failing to provide overtime pay. The law also forbids retaliation against job applicants who complained about previous employers and family members of individuals who have filed labor violation complaints.
- Labor Code 6310 LC: Provides whistleblower protections for employees who report occupational safety and health violations to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). It also prohibits discrimination or retaliation against family members of those who report health/safety violations and permits you to report any whistleblower retaliation to the California Labor Commissioner within six months of any retaliatory action. You also have the right to file a lawsuit instead, with a three-year statute of limitations to file with the California Superior Court—as established by state law.
What Can You Do If You’ve Faced Whistleblower Retaliation?
How you proceed depends on the type of legal violation you believe an employer engaged in. It is important to know your rights. If your employer violated state law, you can file a whistleblower claim to recover lost wages, back pay, or damages for physical pain or emotional distress. You may also be entitled to reinstatement of your previous position. Contact an attorney experienced in employment law for advice and representation.
Contact Lawyers for Justice
If you have faced whistleblower retaliation in the workplace, you need a skilled lawyer to fight for your rights. Our team of employment lawyers will assess your claim and work to get you the compensation you deserve. We’re conveniently based in Glendale to best serve clients in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California. Call 818-647-9323 today to receive a free case evaluation.