How Does Whistleblower Protection Work In California?

Updated: Jan 27

A Guide To Filing Whistleblower Discrimination And Retaliation Claims In California

When your employer violates the law, it is in your right to report them to the appropriate agencies. That said, your employer cannot retaliate or try to get back at you for doing so. If you are fired, punished, demoted, or suspended because you reported your employer, participated in an investigation, or became a witness in a case centered around your employer, you might have grounds to file a Whistleblower Retaliation Claim in California.

In this post, we'll talk about your whistleblower protection rights in California, how to report your employer, and what your legal options are when they retaliate against you.

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Whistleblowers—individuals who "blow the whistle" on and expose unsafe, illegal, or unethical commercial behavior – are vital in protecting consumers, the general public, and the business environment from "bad actors" looking to make a profit.

However, simply exposing unethical or dangerous behavior is typically insufficient to deter firms from engaging in such conduct; instead, businesses will only stop if they are forced to do so through litigation.

Because state and federal governments lack the means to hold every firm accountable for their decisions, they encourage whistleblowers to file qui tam actions.

Qui Tam Lawsuit Definition

In a qui tam whistleblower action, a private individual brings a lawsuit on behalf of a state or federal government agency under the federal False Claims Act or its state-level equivalent, asserting the claim that the agency would have had against the corporation.

In other words, the private individual whistleblower acts in the place of the government agency, asserting claims against the defendant-business that the agency could maintain itself and recovering compensation on the agency's behalf. A successful qui tam lawsuit will allow the private individual whistleblower to collect a part of the overall recovery as a reward for their work (this portion increases if the whistleblower successfully prosecutes their qui tam case without assistance from the relevant government agency).

When it comes to employment, California is an at-will state. This means that an employee can be fired without cause at any time. At-will employment does, however, have several exceptions. Employers are prohibited from firing employees for grounds that are contrary to public policy.

Employees may, for example, make a complaint against an employer that pushes them to work in hazardous conditions or engages in acts that are illegal under state or federal law.

Whistleblowers are employees who submit these claims because they "blow the whistle" on inappropriate behavior. Employers are understandably wary of employees who provide unflattering information about themselves to a government or law enforcement body. The California Whistleblower Protection Act, on the other hand, protects this personnel.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under this Act. This means that firms cannot retaliate against employees who act ethically and report criminal activity.

Retaliation can take various forms. For example, firing, demoting, disciplining, denying overtime or promotion, cutting pay or hours, reassigning work, withdrawing benefits, neglecting to hire or rehire, intimidating, harassing, threatening, and blacklisting are all examples of retaliation.

When employees have information about their employer breaking state or federal laws or municipal rules, the state of California urges them to alert authorities. Employees are protected by the California Whistleblower Protection Act, included in California Labor Code Section 1102.5.

  • Any person employed by a private or public employer is referred to as an employee. Individuals who work for the city, county, or state, a municipal or public corporation, a political subdivision, a school district, a community college district, or the University of California fall into this category.

How Do I Know I'm Experiencing Employment Retaliation?

Any unfavorable or adverse employment action taken by an employer against a whistleblower is illegal retaliation in California. These actions can be seen in a number of ways, including:

  • Dismissal of employees

  • An employee's demotion

  • Employee blacklisting (refers to the practice of limiting future employment opportunities for employees)

  • Employee reassignment to a less desirable position

  • Monetary compensation or a reduction in working hours

  • There are no regular salaries, benefits, or overtime compensation