Under California law, employees are entitled to report wrongdoings in the workplace without fear of retribution from their employer.
It's called the California Whistleblower Protection Act. The state, in fact, encourages employees to tell the person or group empowered to investigate an issue when they believe their employer has violated local, state or federal laws or if their actions can harm the safety or health of employees.
Violations also can include an abuse of authority, gross mismanagement and a gross waste of funds.
Employees are a protected class, whether they are employed in private industry or by a public institution, such as the state, a county, city, school district or the state's divisions of higher learning.
But what, exactly, does that mean in terms of legal protections for employees?
- An employer can't adopt any policies that ban employees from reporting potential violations of workplace or safety laws.
- An employer can't retaliate against an employee who reports such potential violations.
- An employer can't take action against an employee who chooses not to take part in something that could violate state or federal regulations.
- An employer can't retaliate when it is discovered that an employee was a whistleblower in a previous job.
- An employer could be required to give employees back their jobs, with back pay, and reinstate benefits if the employees were wrongfully terminated for making a whistleblower report.
If you have information about what you believe to be a violation of state or federal law, you can contact the California State Attorney General's Whistleblower Hotline to make a report. Someone in the office will send you to the proper agency to file a report.
Doing so is your right – and could save lives if the issue pertains to workers' health and safety. If you face any retribution in the workplace, such as the loss of your job, an attorney experienced in workplace law can advise you of your next step.