Do you question the scruples of your employer? Are you suspicious that certain policies and/or actions may break state or federal laws? Are shady practices cheating competitors or other organizations out of their fair profits? If so, are you considering blowing the whistle? Such action comes with certain dangers. Some employers do not take kindly to reports revealing their unprincipled practices, but you should know that both state and federal laws protect whistleblowers from employer retaliation. A good employment attorney can assist you in your endeavors to make things right.
Case in Point: Melody Jo Samuelson
When psychologist Melody Jo Samuelson testified that she had been compelled to use dubious testing methods in order to push patients into the justice system before they were mentally competent, Napa State Hospital in California fired her. Samuelson fought the retaliatory action in court, and wound up winning a million dollar verdict.
Although California is an at-will state where the majority of employees may be terminated without explanation, there are exceptions to the rule. One such exception involves a California statute protecting employees who reveal or report violations of common law public policy or illegal activity. This may include employees who:
- Choose not to violate laws;
- Perform legal obligations despite employer protestations;
- Exercise constitutional rights at the consternation of employers;
- Suspect violations of state or federal laws;
- Report violations of state or federal statutes to workplace, government, or legal authorities.
Employers may not create or exercise policies limiting employee disclosures in order to intimidate employees or prevent or justify the quelling of complaints. Furthermore, workers who are fired or otherwise experience retaliation for such reporting or testifying may file a complaint against employers. Violation reports must be made to law enforcement agencies and/or government agencies in order to be protected.
Presenting Your Case
Your prima facie case will encompass the following elements:
- You are an employee/individual covered by statutory or common law;
- Your employer is covered by said laws;
- Your employer knew of the situation;
- Retaliation was prompted by your participation in protected activities;
- You suffered discrimination and/or termination;
- You would not have experienced discrimination/termination had you chosen not to engage in protected activities.
Statutes of Limitations
The amount of time between the retaliatory action and the filing of a complaint is limited depending on the claim and the agency with which it is filed. In general, lawsuits must be filed within two years of retaliatory events. Suits involving Occupational Safety and Health have a six-month statute of limitations, and those involving Workers’ Compensation have a one-year limit. Some federal limits are as short as one month! Each case has its own intricacies and exceptions; working with an employment attorney at HKM to ensure you file within the accepted deadlines is a good idea. Our team understands state and federal statutes and will fight aggressively to protect your interests. Contact us today in Los Angeles for a personalized consultation.