Whistleblower Rights and Protections Under California Labor Code Section 1102.5
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What are Whistleblower Protections Laws?
These laws protect an employee who discloses information about a state or federal law violation. Whistleblower laws also protect an employee from employer retaliation after providing testimony or information to public bodies investigating a reported violation.
California law protects an employee that “reasonably believes” an employer is acting in violation of a law or regulation and reports that violation. California Labor Code Section 1102.5 makes it illegal for the employer to retaliate against the reporting or “whistleblowing” employee.
If an employee reported violations of a previous employer or if the employee’s family members served as whistleblowers, the law protects the employee from retaliation by the current employer.
Who Is Considered a Whistleblower?
Whistleblowers are employees who
- Report information about their employers’ violation or noncompliance with a state or federal statute or local, state, or federal rule or regulation.
- Disclose information about an unsafe working environment or practices contributing to an unsafe or unhealthy environment.
- Refuse to take part in activities violating or promoting noncompliance with state or federal statutes or local, state, or federal rules and regulations.
Examples of Whistleblowers Cases
Whistleblower cases span a range of violations and can affect entities such as small local businesses, school or hospital systems, or government agencies.
Among other violations, whistleblowers have reported:
- Illegal wage or work-hours practices.
- Discriminatory behavior or harassment.
- Attempts to defraud investors, the government, or other entities.
Who Is Protected by Whistleblower Laws?
Employees who have “reasonable cause” to believe their employer is acting illegally are protected by whistleblower laws. If a reported employer is ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, the reporter – or whistleblower, is still protected if there was reasonable cause to believe the illegal activity was occurring. The activity reported does not need to be related to the employment duties of the employee.
Labor Code Section 1102.5 also protects employees who have not made a report but whose employers retaliated against them under the false belief that the employer had or was going to report a violation.
What Protections Do Whistleblowers Have?
California Law makes it illegal for employers to:
- “Make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy” that would prevent an employee from whistleblowing.
- Retaliate against employee whistleblowers.
- Retaliate against employees who will not participate in practices or activities that would violate or put them in noncompliance with laws and regulations.
- Retaliate against current employees who “blew the whistle” on prior employers.