Whistleblower Laws & Protections Explained
California's whistleblower protection laws prohibit employers from taking retaliatory action against workers who report illegal activity to law enforcement officials. Employers are also prohibited from punishing employees who refuse to be a part of such illegal activities in the workplace.
The experienced California employment lawyers at Kingsley and Kingsley Employment Lawyers represent employees and protect their rights in whistleblower claims. Speaking up against your employer or reporting unlawful activity in the workplace can be extremely challenging. If you are considering reporting your employer or if you have already blown the whistle, it is imperative that you understand your right to protected against retaliation.
What Are Federal Whistleblower Laws?
There are a number of federal laws that exist to safeguard the rights of whistleblowers. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act protects employees who report employer fraud from termination, harassment and other types of retaliatory actions by the employer. Employees have this protection even if a court later finds that the employer did not violate any laws.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also administers whistleblower provisions of various statutes essentially protecting workers who report health and safety violations including dangerous workplace conditions. If you report safety violations by your employer, for example, you cannot be fired or retaliated against by your employer. That would be prohibited under the law.
The Dodd-Frank Act expressly prohibits retaliation by employers against whistleblowers and provides them with a private cause of action in the event that they are discharged or discriminated against by their employers in violation of the Act.
California Whistleblower Laws
Under California law, employees are not only protected from employer retaliation when they report illicit conduct to an outside agency. California's Whistleblower Protection Act, in fact, offers strong and broad protection to workers by also protecting employees to make reports internally of violations of state or federal law. If you are an employee who refuses to participate in such unlawful activities that would violate federal or state law, you are also protected against retaliation by your employer.
There are different types of whistleblower lawsuits that can be filed in California. A qui tam lawsuit is filed under the California False Claims Act and enables employees to receive compensation from an employer that has engaged in illicit activity, particularly in instances where government funds have been misappropriated.
Qui tam lawsuits are civil actions, which must be brought by an individual who has firsthand knowledge of the situation. They are filed by whistleblowers on behalf of the government. In such cases you can sue to recover compensation for the government as well as for yourself.
Examples of scenarios where qui tam lawsuits can be filed include cases where a business is fraudulently billing Medicare or Medicaid or when a business is overbilling for products or services provided on a contract-basis for a governmental entity. In such cases, the whistleblower will receive a share of the compensatory award if the case is successful. In qui tam cases, the law allows an award of damages up to three times the value of the losses caused by the unlawful activity.
When an employee reports illicit activity by the employer, they often get pushback. There are a number of ways in which employers may punish employees for reporting shady activity including termination of employment, harassment, denying earned promotions, withholding benefits or bonuses, demotion, salary cuts, transfers, etc. Your employer could really make your life difficult if they wanted to do so. There are a number of laws in California to prevent this from happening.
A skilled Los Angeles workplace retaliation lawyer can help ensure that you get justice in your case. You may be able to sue your employer to get your job back or to get back pay with interest, additional financial compensation as well as damages for emotional distress, causing damage to your reputation and compensation to cover attorney's fees.
How Can a Whistleblower Attorney Help You?
One of the main reasons you blew the whistle against your employer was probably to highlight their wrongdoing and to hold them accountable. If your employer was engaged in unlawful activity, you may be able to while a whistleblower qui tam lawsuit. The experienced California whistleblower lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley strongly believe in supporting and fighting for those who have the courage to speak out when they see injustice or wrongdoing.
Our Los Angeles, California, employment lawyers have a long and successful track record of helping employees protect their legal rights and hold their employers accountable for their wrongful actions. Filing a whistleblower claim can be a complex process that requires a lot of preparation and gathering of evidence. Our lawyers, who have the necessary knowledge and experience with such claims, can help you build a comprehensive case so you are successful with your action. Call Kingsley and Kingsley Employment Lawyers to find out how we can help.