Whistleblowing is the act of an employee exposing illegal and/or prohibited activities committed by their employers and/or supervisors. Under California Labor Code, an employer is explicitly prohibited from retaliating against an employee because that employee reported activities conducted by the employer that violated some federal, state or local law. In LA, an employer is also prohibited from retaliating against an employee who refuses to participate in illegal activities at their employer or supervisor’s behest. Furthermore, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee who testifies before any public body that is conducting an inquiry, hearing or investigation when that employee discloses information that they reasonable believe illustrates a violation of state and federal law, or noncompliance/violation of state, local and federal law.
Recently, this restriction against retaliation for employee whistleblowing was even extended to employees who simply suspect that illegal behavior is being committed by either a person with authority over the employee, or by another employee with the authority to discover, investigate or correct a violation of federal, state and local law. Additionally, an employer who creates a rule or agreement prohibiting an employee from disclosing any believed violations of local, state and federal law will be engaged in an unlawful employment practice.
Not only are employers prohibited from retaliating against employees for whistleblowing, in Los Angeles. In fact a person acting on behalf of an employer when engaging in retaliatory activities can also be considered liable for an illegal employment practice. Furthermore, the protection against retaliation for whistleblowing extends to when the employer simply believes an employee has engaged in whistleblowing, regardless of whether or not the employee actually committed the presumed conduct.
In Los Angeles, an employee can be protected from whistleblowing regardless of whether the disclosed information was gained as part of the employee carrying out his or her regular job duties or functions. Thus, a compliance officer would be protected against disclosing potentially illegal activities to outside parties even though that officer’s job duties require him to only internally report the illegal activity or practice. Lastly, both existing employees and potential employees i.e. job applicants are protected from disclosing an employer’s illegal activities.
Retaliation for Employee Whistleblowing
The state of California takes employer retaliation for whistleblowing very seriously. Civil penalties up to $10,000 are imposed per violation. California whistleblower protections permit an employee to file a lawsuit within two years following the occurrence of the retaliatory conduct. In a civil action or administrative proceeding for employer retaliation based on employee whistleblowing, it must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence that whistleblowing activity was a contributing factor in the retaliatory action against the employee. From there the only way that the employer can avoid liability is if the employer can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the action that was allegedly retaliatory in nature would still have occurred because of independent, or legitimate reasons.
Legal Representation and Assistance for Whistleblowing Claims
The state of California and the federal government are getting tough on illegal employment practices. In order to facilitate this crackdown, they have expanded existing protections provided for employees who report the illegal activities of the employers. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Los Angeles, California for legal representation in an employment retaliation whistleblowing claim.