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Retaliation and Whistleblower Protection

What is a whistleblower?

According to California law, “A whistleblower is an employee who discloses information to a government or law enforcement agency where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses: A violation of a state or federal statute, A violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation, or With reference to employee safety or health, unsafe working conditions or work practices in the employee’s employment or place of employment.” The violations reported by a whistleblower may cross into many areas of the law, including workplace protections against racial discrimination, sexual harassment or discrimination, sexual assault or battery, wage and hour violations and age discrimination, to name a few.

What is retaliation?

Retaliation is an action taken by an employer, or someone engaged by the employer, against a whistleblower. Retaliation may include harassment, intimidation, threats, negative evaluations, discrimination, demotions (or failure to promote), change or removal of benefits, change of job or shift assignments or unlawful termination. It is illegal under California law for an employer to take any retaliatory actions against an employee who engages in whistleblower activity, including the investigation of possible violations or giving statements during an investigation of possible illegal activity. Even if the original complaint of discrimination or harassment turns out to be unfounded, an employee who can prove that something negative happened because he/she participated in, or filed a complaint, can still bring a retaliation claim.
Adverse action includes demotion, discipline, firing, salary reduction, negative evaluation, change in job assignment, or change in shift assignment. Retaliation can also include hostile behavior or attitudes toward an employee who complains.

How are whistleblowers protected from retaliation?

The California Labor Code Section 98.6 states, “Any employee who is discharged, threatened with discharge, demoted, suspended, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of such employment because such employee has made a bona fide complaint or claim to the division pursuant to this part shall be entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by such acts of the employer. Any employer who willfully refuses to hire, promote, or otherwise restore an employee or former employee who has been determined to be eligible for such rehiring or promotion by a grievance procedure, arbitration or hearing authorized by law, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” The employer must also take measures to assure future compliance with the law. Even if the original complaint of discrimination or harassment turns out to be unfounded, an employee who can prove that something negative happened because he/she filed or participated in a complaint can still bring a retaliation claim.
If you believe that you are a victim of retaliation by your employer or if you have questions about your protections under California whistleblower law, you should speak with an employment attorney. Shannon Foley is extremely experienced in business and employment law and can advise you regarding your rights and options.

Contact Foley Lyman Law Group LLP

If you are seeking legal counsel who will listen to your concerns, inform you of your options and represent you effectively, contact Foley Lyman Law Group at 310.706.4050 for a confidential consultation. You can also send us an email to obtain more information or schedule an appointment with one of our award winning employment and business lawyers.

We provide expert legal representation in all areas of Employment Law including Class Actions, Wrongful Termination, Workplace Discrimination for Age, Pregnancy, Gender, Sexual Orientation or Family Issues, Harassment at Work, Severance Negotiations as well as in Business Law, Transactional and Litigation in Los Angeles, Orange County and all of California.

Foley Lyman Law Group LLP
1500 Rosecrans Avenue
Suite 500
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Office: (310) 706-4050
Fax: (310) 356-3105

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