WHISTLEBLOWER RIGHTS: Vital & Historically Important

Workplace protections for whistleblowers are vital to ensure whistleblower rights are guarded.  American history is filled with examples of the vital and important role that whistleblowers have had in saving lives and protecting our futures.  It was internal engineers at GE who blew the whistle on the negligent cleanup of nuclear reactors at Three Mile Island.  It was an employee of U.S. Customs who blew the whistle on unconstitutional racial profiling at airports.  From tainted peanuts to the Enron and WORLDCOM scandals, whistleblowers have played an integral and indispensable part in keeping America safe.

We all benefit when whistleblowers come forward.  That is why California and federal law both encourage whistleblowing.  California considers this a strong public policy interest and provides Labor Code protections for whistleblowers, including stern penalties for retaliation or adverse employment action.  By doing so, California strongly encourages employees to blow the whistle when they have reason to believe that their employer is violating any law, rule, or regulation.

If you have reason to believe that your employer is not complying with a state or federal law, rule, or regulation – know that you are protected if you come forward and report the suspected violation, whether internally, or to a government or law enforcement agency.  Your employer cannot retaliate against you for reporting what you suspect may be a violation of any law, rule or regulation.  This includes legal protections against any negative performance evaluation and all other forms of adverse employment action, especially termination.

Internal & External Whistleblowing

California law protects internal and external whistleblowers.  Most whistleblowers are internal meaning that they report suspected violations to fellow employees or supervisors, or even through internal hotlines.  California Labor Code § 1102.5 makes it clear that these whistleblowers are protected from retaliation or adverse employment action.  The statute was amended in 2013, effective January 1, 2014, to add protections for employees who report:

[I]nformation to a government or law enforcement agency, to a person with authority over the employee, or to another employee who has authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or . . . provid[e] information to, or testify[] before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.

Stats. 2013, Ch. 781 (S.B. 496), § 4.1.

Therefore, if your employer has fired or retaliated against you because of an internal report you made about suspected violations of law, rules or regulations – you have legal rights!  There are also remedies you may seek for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Making the decision to blow the whistle on your employers is never easy.  If you are concerned that your employer is violating a law, rule, or regulation, contact Vision Legal, Inc., and speak with a lawyer who understands whistleblower protections and can explain your rights and options.

Know that you are protected against any form of adverse employment action, including negative performance evaluations.  Also, remember the important role that whistleblowers have played in keeping America safe.  Do not be afraid to step forward and report violations that affect the health and safety of those around you.