In order to encourage the reporting of illegal business practices, state and federal laws include a "whistleblower" clause that prevents retaliation against an employee who reports workplace violations to the authorities.
What Actions Are Protected Under Whistleblower Laws?
California’s Whistleblower Protection Act protects both public and private employees who report violations of law, violations of public policy, and breaches of the public trust. The state law includes employees who report a suspected violation internally (such as to a manager or supervisor), and also protects third-party and contract employees.
Employment laws prohibit discrimination or retaliation against workers who report:
Labor Law Violations:
California labor laws prevent adverse actions against workers who report wage violations, including unpaid wages, overtime, meal and rest breaks, working minors, and other violation of the labor code. In 2016, additions to the California Labor Code prevented retaliation against a whistleblower’s family members, as well as prohibiting retaliation by third parties (such as contractors).
Workplace Health and Safety Violations: Federal laws such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, Solid Waste Disposal Act, Toxic Substance Control Act, Water Pollution Control Act, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act protect workers from retaliation if they report concerns about environmental dangers, unsafe work environments, health code violations, or potential illegal dumping.
Patient Safety Concerns:
California Health and Safety Code 1278.5 prevents retaliation against patients, nurses, medical staff, and healthcare workers who report poor quality of patient care and unsafe healthcare conditions. Healthcare workers what have been terminated after reporting violations to the facility itself or to a government entity is entitled to reinstatement, reimbursement, and the payment of his or her legal costs.
Not only must terminated whistleblowers be rehired, they are also eligible to file a claim against the employer to recover any damages that the discrimination has cost them. Compensation can include repayment of lost wages, benefits and vacation pay, and additional damages for hardship and offense caused by the retaliation. In some cases, retaliation can carry criminal charges for the employer. For more information on these types of cases, please use our website to learn more about California employment laws.