In California, it’s illegal to retaliate against a whistleblower, and if you’re in a situation where you feel that you may have to tell on someone who is doing something illegal in your company, you should know about what protections you have. It can be daunting to go up against a company or a powerful person at a company if you notice that something is going on that doesn’t seem right, but letting the illegal activity continue can have adverse effects on your ability to do your job in a lawful manner. That’s why it’s important to understand the laws and what protections exist for anyone who decides to blow the whistle on illegal activity.
What activities are retaliation?
There are many things that a boss or company could do to a whistleblower that constitute retaliation — for instance, denying benefits, revoking a promotion, firing, laying off, demoting, disciplining, making threats, intimidating, reassignment to less desirable positions, reducing pay or hours, isolating or ostracizing, and interfering with the whistleblower’s ability to gain future work elsewhere. This is a partial list because there may be other ways that an employer could retaliate against a whistleblower, but any negative action against an employee may be construed as retaliation.
Who is protected against retaliation?
In California, there’s a whistleblower law that protects any individual from retaliation regardless of whether he or she is a public or private employee. In fact, there have been cases where whistleblowers have been protected against company retaliation. As a case in point, AT&T and Verizon had to pay out a settlement to the University of California for incorrectly optimized rates under a contractual discount plan.
There are numerous instances when an employee may have to report his or her employer or a powerful person at the company about illegal activity. It can be a frightening prospect, so it’s nice to know that there are laws in place that help people ensure that they won’t be the target of retaliation after they call out the illegal activity. Also, an attorney who specializes in whistleblower/qui tam law can be an extremely beneficial resource.