Omid Nosrati

What protection does California law provide to whistleblowers?

When most employees report for the start of the workday they want nothing more than to spend their shift performing their assigned duties to the best of their abilities, a feat made possible in large part by their employer. Indeed, employee success ultimately hinges on an employer's willingness to provide the necessary resources, support structure and viable working conditions.   

What happens, however, when an employee learns that their employer is violating either state or federal law, essentially leaving them unable to perform these assigned duties, and, worse, torn between the need to report this malfeasance and the fear of workplace retaliation?

As distressing as this can be, it's imperative for those in this situation to understand that they are granted what is known as whistleblower protection under the California Labor Code. 

Any discussion of the extent of this protection, however, must be prefaced by a brief examination of who is covered by the law and under what circumstances. 

In general, any person employed by a private or public entity is granted whistleblower protection. Here, a public entity includes not just individuals employed by the state or any of its agencies/subdivisions, but also those employed by any county or municipality.

As to the state's whistleblower protection statute, it applies whenever the employee discloses information to a government/law enforcement agency, supervisor, or other employee vested with both investigative and remedial powers, that he or she has reasonable cause to believe will reveal any of the following:

  • Violations of state or federal law
  • Noncompliance with or violations of local, state or federal rules/regulations
  • Unsafe working conditions or work practices

It's important to understand that the whistleblower protection statute also applies where an employee declines participation in any activity that would 1) violate state or federal law, or 2) result in noncompliance with or violations of local, state of federal rules/regulations.

We'll continue this discussion in our next post, examining the scope of statutory protection and what types of conduct could be classified as retaliation.

If you have reason to believe your employer has retaliated against you for reporting fraud, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options for seeking justice.

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