Whistleblowers face risk but have legal protections. California law encourages employees to notify the appropriate government agency where their employer is violating any federal, state or local law or regulation. California also prohibits whistleblower retaliation against these employees.
California's whistleblower law is broad. It covers all employees including those employed by private business, community college and school districts, the University of California, local and municipal corporations and state, county, local and governments.
A whistleblower is any employee who discloses information to government or law enforcement or to any person who has authority over that employee or who can investigate, correct or learn about the alleged legal violation.
Employees are protected if they testify in a hearing, investigation or inquiry held by a public body. They also include any employee who refuses to violate any law or regulation.
Under the law, the employer must have reasonable cause to believe that this information discloses a violation of federal or state laws or regulations issued by the federal, state or local governments. This information can also pertain to worker health or safety or dangerous work conditions or practices.
The law contains whistleblower rights. Employers cannot make or enforce any rule or policy preventing whistleblower activities. They cannot retaliate against whistleblowers. Retaliation is also prohibited against a worker who refuses to take part in any illegal activity. Workers are also protected against retaliation for engaging in whistleblower activities against a former employer.
An employer may have to reinstate any worker when there was retaliation. Additionally, the worker may be entitled to having their benefits and lost pay restored. Employee are sometimes entitled to other legal remedies.
A worker who is considering being a whistleblower or facing retaliation should seek experienced legal representation. An attorney can help protect their employment and seek compensation and relief for any retaliation.
Source: California Division of Labor Standards, "Whistleblower protection," Accessed Sept. 20, 2017