If you are a California worker who believes that your company is engaging in illegal or prohibited activities and/or practices, you can complain to your supervisor or to the proper governmental agency without fear of retaliation by your employer. This is because you have become a whistleblower, which is not a pejorative term. Rather, it means that you are someone with a conscience who cares enough about laws, rules and regulations that you cannot stand by silently while your company flouts them. You must blow the whistle.
Per FindLaw, there are a number of state and federal laws that protect you from employer retaliation when you blow that whistle. For instance, your employer cannot fire, demote or discipline you for complaining about a variety of workplace situations including the following:
- Health and safety code violations
- Fraud or financial mismanagement
- Workplace harassment and/or discrimination
- Family and Medical Leave Act violations
- Wage, hour and overtime violations
The term “whistleblower” first gained widespread notice and acceptance in 2002 when Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This Act sought to prevent shareholder fraud and other misdeeds by publicly traded companies. The government needed proof of such illegal activities, but knew that employees would hesitate to come forward for fear of losing their jobs. Consequently, Congress inserted worker protections against employer retaliation into the Act.
Many additional federal and state laws have since been passed that protect whistle-blowing workers. As long as you have a good-faith belief that your company is engaging in illegal or prohibited acts, and as long as you have a good-faith intention of stopping these acts by making a complaint, your employer cannot retaliate against you. If it does, you can file a lawsuit for wrongful termination, lost wages, or whatever else may be appropriate. Your employer also may face criminal prosecution depending on the circumstances.
This information is intended to educate and is not legal advice.