Bay Area employees may be able to recall a situation in which they had to decide to speak up about a problem in the workplace. In some situations, a supervisor or employer may not want to deal with the issue properly, and may want to prevent other employees or the public from finding out. People who speak up might be considered whistleblowers, and many fear retaliation.
Nobody likes a tattletale, but Bay Area employees were likely taught growing up that there is a difference between tattling and calling attention to a dangerous or unjust situation. In the workplace, people who take this sort of action to protect other employees and alert authorities to danger or crime are often referred to as whistleblowers. Often, hard-working employees may be aware of a problem on the job that should be reported to authorities but fear that an employer will take retaliatory action against them if they do.
Former President Abraham Lincoln signed the False Claims Act into law in 1863. He is said to have wanted to encourage people to report fraud against the U.S. government. Individuals who submit information to authorities or company officials regarding corporate wrongdoing are colloquially known as "whistleblowers," and while Lincoln died well over a century ago, the protection he set forth for those in California and other states who report unethical or illegal activity in the workplace still exists.
Bay Area residents are aware that their local police and rescue dispatchers are an essential part of their community. Often the first people to become aware of a crime or emergency, these hardworking individuals are tasked with getting help to a victim as quickly as possible. It takes a good amount of training to provide this necessary service to any community, and one woman is now fighting what she feels was a wrongful termination on behalf of herself and other whistleblowers.
Retaliation against employees happens in every field—including the California law enforcement. Recently, an officer with the Long Beach Police Department reported that he experienced retaliation after raising issue with management practices. He claimed that his supervisors reassigned him to undesirable job duties and withdrew several of his workplace perks. Last week, a jury awarded the officer $2.5 million in damages for his suffering.
In every industry, whistleblowers are crucial to identifying and reporting wrongdoing or safety violations. The financial sector is no different. To ferret out securities fraud, the Security and Exchange Commission has a Whistleblower Program to assist informants who notice securities fraud. And 2018 has been the program’s most successful year yet. In the fiscal year 2018, the SEC received a record number of tips that allowed it to recover around $1.7 billion in monetary sanctions.
Nothing feels worse than being fired, especially if you feel like you have done nothing to deserve it. In some cases, employers fire employees illegally. These are cases of wrongful termination.
Speaking out against your employer can be terrifying. Last year, a doctor working for the Augusta State Medical Prison in Georgia spoke out against the horrific conditions inside the prison. He recently filed a lawsuit under the Georgia Whistleblower Act against the prison and the Georgia Department of Corrections for their acts of retaliation.
It takes a lot of courage for an employee to expose an employer who is engaging in illegal activity. Sadly, many employers will attempt to punish people for coming forward.
A former university vice chancellor in another state recently claimed that he wrongfully lost his job for calling attention to the school chancellor's luxury automobile, among other things. He has thus filed a whistleblower suit against the university as well as the chancellor himself. Whistleblowers in the Bay Area likewise have the right to file lawsuits if they are wrongfully terminated for speaking up about illegal or unethical goings-on in their companies.