California Whistleblower & Retaliation Guide

noun: whistleblower
a person who informs on a person or organization engaged in an illicit activity.

General Considerations for Whistleblower

My supervisor is a crook. Should I make a complaint? How? To Whom? My employer is getting away with all kinds of wrongful conduct. This is just wrong. Should I stay silent? I don’t see myself as a “whistleblower.”

These are all commonly asked questions by employees who are working for employers that engage in illegal activity. The employee is torn between wanting to get along, and avoiding trouble, and the pain and suffering that comes with being silent and potentially endangering public safety and the financial and physical well being of their co-workers.

The purpose of this guide is to answer some of the questions you might have if you believe you are working for an employer who is violating the law and some recommendations on how you might choose to proceed. Also, this guide provides a useful summary of the key California and federal laws relating to retaliation and whistleblowing. Further, we provide some references to organizations that can help you proceed with your whistleblower claims if you choose to come forward and object to the illegal conduct.

Am I a Whistleblower?

Few employees actually perceive themselves as being whistleblowers. With few exceptions, employees simply want to do their jobs well, make good money, and live in peace. Employees are not looking for trouble with their employers and look at a lawsuit as a remedy of last resort. Having said that, many employers engage in practices that are blatantly fraudulent, illegal and dangerous to the public.

The list of possible wrongdoings is endless. Employers can engage in acts that constitute wage theft, endanger food safety, cheat the IRS, and which defraud the government into overpaying for goods and services. In these extreme situations, many employees decide to come forward and present objections to the illegal activity, thinking that their efforts to bring these important issues to the attention of their employers will be well received and that appropriate actions will be undertaken to stop the illegal activity from continuing.

But, let’s face it—many corporations are much more interested in maximizing their own profits, as contrasted to doing the right thing. So, rather than fixing the problem, they decide to fix the objecting employee’s wagon.

What should I do? With more frequency than one might expect, employees in California witness or experience conduct, behavior, and practices by their employer that violate important laws, public policies, regulations and statutes of the State of California or the United States. The good news is that more and more of these employees are coming forward and making complaints to their employers about the illegal activity.

In many instances, the illegal conduct is stopped in response to the complaint. In other instances, the employee may be subject to punishment for coming forward. In those situations, the employee may be entitled to significant damages. In fact, wrongfully terminated employees have recovered billions of dollars from employers on claims based on retaliation and other illegal activities. The Law Offices of Daniel Feder have recovered millions of dollars against employers based on retaliation claims.

The first step in the process is to figure out whether nor not the employer’s conduct constitutes illegal activity. After that, a decision needs to be made about whether or not to report the illegal activity, how to report it, to whom, and what to expect once the complaint is made. Further, the employee needs to know what action to take if the employee is subjected to retaliation for complaining about the illegal activity.

Next up: California Statutes Protecting Whistleblowers from Retaliation

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