Sometimes employees are witnesses to illegal activities in the workplace. They may see a boss or a coworker doing something illegal but are afraid to report this to the company or law enforcement. Sometimes an employer may even ask an employee to do something which is illegal. Fortunately, California employees are protected in these situations by Labor Code Section 1102.5, otherwise known as the “whistleblower” statute. This statute prohibits employers from adopting policies preventing employees from disclosing information to government or law enforcement agency, or to certain people of authority within the company, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of federal, state or local law, regardless whether disclosing this information is actually part of the employee’s job duties. Labor Code Section 1102.5(a).
This statute also makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for:
- Disclosing information, or because the employer believes the employee has disclosed or may disclose information. Labor Code Section 1102.5(b);
- Refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of federal, state or local law. Labor Code Section 1102.5(c);
- Having exercised his or her whistleblower rights in the past, while working for a previous employer. Labor Code Section 1102.5(d);
- Being a family member of a person who has, or is perceived to have, engaged in “whistleblower” activity. Labor Code Section 1102.5(h);
Employers who retaliate against a whistleblower may be ordered to reinstate the employee with back pay and benefits, and pay the employee’s compensatory damages, including lost wages and benefits, future loss of income, and emotional distress. Labor Code Section 1105.
In addition, when the retaliating employer is either a corporation or LLC, the law provides for a civil penalty not exceeding $10,000 for each violation. Labor Code Section 1102.5(f).
If you believe you have been retaliated against because you are a “whistleblower,” please call Hubbs Disability law for a free consultation at (800) 883-3492, or fill out our contact form.