Corporate Whistleblowers and Whistleblowing

California attorneys representing employees who experienced retaliation after reporting or refusing to participate in an employer’s misconduct

Corporate whistleblowers are employees who report fraud or other illegal activity in the workplace, either internally to management or to appropriate authorities. Several California and federal laws protect employees who engage in whistleblowing by reporting employer misconduct or refusing to participate in illegal acts.

The employment attorneys at Minnis & Smallets help California whistleblowers obtain compensation when they have been terminated for conduct that is protected by whistleblower laws. Other remedies may also be available when whistleblowing leads to harassment or other forms of retaliation.

Who Is a Whistleblower?

California law defines a whistleblower as an employee who reports any of the following corporate misconduct:

  • A violation of state or federal law
  • A failure to comply with government regulations
  • Unsafe working conditions or an unhealthy working environment

California employees who reasonably believe that misconduct occurred are protected when they report that misconduct to:

  • A government agency that regulates the employer’s business
  • A law enforcement agency
  • A supervisor who has authority over the employee
  • A corporate employee whose job involves investigating or correcting the violation

Whistleblower laws also protect employees who provide information or testify with regard to a government investigation or hearing concerning the kinds of misconduct that are described above. In addition, employees are entitled to whistleblower protection when they refuse an employer’s orders to participate in unlawful activity, such as fraud.

What Are Some Examples of Whistleblowing?

Reporting any violation of a state or federal law or regulation to an appropriate authority constitutes whistleblowing. Common examples include reports of:

  • Fraudulent billing
  • Accounting fraud
  • Fraudulent statements made in corporate tax returns
  • Falsified test results to meet performance standards, such as those required by government contracts
  • Violations of OSHA standards or other health and safety regulations
  • Violations of environmental regulations
  • Workplace discrimination and harassment
  • Gender-based disparities in employee compensation, Wage and hour violations (such as a failure to pay required overtime)
  • Manufacturing or selling products that fail to meet safety standards

Refusing to participate in illegal conduct – such as refusing to dump waste products into a river or to refusing to send a subordinate into a dangerous working environment – is also conduct protected by whistleblowing laws.

What Laws Protect Whistleblowers?

California Labor Code section 1102.5 is one of the most important California laws that prohibits employers from retaliating against whistleblowers. That law makes it clear that an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for disclosing information to a person with authority over the employee, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute. Other California laws also protect whistleblowers.

About two dozen federal laws protect whistleblowers who report violations of federal regulations. Some of the most common federal whistleblower cases involve:

  • Workplace safety
  • Environmental protection
  • Product safety
    Fraudulent statements made to corporate shareholders

Other federal laws protect workers who report fraud committed against the federal government (such as falsifying bills submitted by a doctor for payment by Medicare).

What Protections Do Whistleblowers Receive?

A whistleblower who is fired after taking action that is protected by whistleblower laws can bring a claim against the employer for lost pay and reinstatement. Whistleblowers are protected even if the internal or government investigation discloses no wrongdoing, provided that they had a reasonable belief that they were reporting actual misconduct at the time the report was made.

Other remedies, such as damages for loss of reputation, punitive damages, or an order prohibiting the employer from continuing to engage in unlawful activity, may also be available.

Where Can I Get Legal Help?

Are you considering reporting your employer’s illegal conduct? Do you have questions or concerns about your rights as a whistleblower? Have you been subjected to retaliation after blowing the whistle or refusing to engage in illegal conduct that your employer demanded?

The employment lawyers at Minnis & Smallets help whistleblowers assert their legal rights. Our attorneys have successfully represented whistleblowing employees who were terminated because they objected to or refused to participate in their employer’s unlawful conduct. To learn how we can help you, call us at 1-415-551-0885 or ask us a question by submitting our online contact form.