Have you witnessed wrongdoing in your workplace? Are you afraid you will be fired or retaliated against in another way if you report unlawful activity? If so, speaking to an employment attorney can be crucial. The California whistleblower attorneys at HKM Employment Attorneys are prepared to help protect you and advocate for you.
What is a Whistleblower?
A whistleblower is an employee who sees their workplace partake in illegal or fraudulent activity. Whistleblowers decide the activity needs to be stopped. When they report this activity, they become whistleblowers. For hundreds of years, laws have protected whistleblowers. California has its own laws protecting employee whistleblowers. Many different types of unlawful activities could be considered whistleblower cases. Some of these cases include the following:
- Insurance fraud
- IRS cases
- Bank cases
- Medicare fraud.
You may be considered a whistleblower if you think illegal activity or wrongdoing is happening at your workplace and you take this information to the EEOC. Usually, whistleblowers report claims when their coworkers or managers act in a suspicious way. However, the unlawful activity may sometimes involve customers, third parties, or others. Whistleblower laws let people bring forward claims about what they think is an illegal activity in the workplace, regardless of whether the employer who signs their check or the third-party workers who they do not know by name.
Is Filing a Claim the Same as Whistleblowering?
When you file a complaint, it is typically about something that affects you personally, such as discrimination or harassment you have faced from a coworker. A complaint would be some time you do to protect your individual rights. Whistleblowing usually involves reporting a much larger-scale problem that affects many people.
Am I Protected by Law as a Whistleblower?
The Employment Rights Act was passed in 1996. Under this law, when someone blows the whistle on a company, they are protected from retaliation by their employer, such as being fired or demoted. When an employee is hired by a company, they immediately have the right to be protected for whistleblowing under the law. You do not have to be a long-standing employee to be protected by this law.
Employees retaliated against for making a protected disclosure can pursue compensation for a discrimination claim. Employees are also protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998. This act exists to protect employees from disclosing information that is in the public interest and then being fired or otherwise retaliated against.
How is Disclosure Qualified?
To be protected under whistleblower laws, your disclosure must be protected under the loss. Employees are protected from blowing the whistle and what they have observed when the information will benefit the public interest. Employees will not be protected if the information they disclose is trivial, minor, or harmless.
Suppose you are going to blow the whistle in a protected manner. In that case, you should speak to an attorney first and ensure the information you provide is serious enough to make you eligible for protection. Generally, information about the following types of activities will be protected:
- Crimes taking place
- A miscarriage of justice in your workplace
- An activity you see that is creating damage to the environment
- An activity you see that is creating a danger to health and safety
- An activity you see that is against state or federal laws or that violates regulations
The Benefits of Working With a Skilled Employment Attorney
An attorney can help you every step of the way. Many complexities are involved in pursuing a whistleblower claim, and most employees are unfamiliar with these complexities. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the process effectively. An attorney representing your claim will act similarly to an attorney who took on any other type of employment law claim. When you work with HKM Employment Attorneys, you can rest assured that we will provide you with the following services:
- We will investigate your claims and determine whether or not you have enough reason to continue with your claim based on evidence
- Your attorney will file your complaint with the right people to get the claim started
- Your attorney will make sure you’re doing everything you can to maximize the outcome of your claim
- Your attorney will represent you to any government officials looking into your claim
What Can I Recover in a Whistleblower Lawsuit?
Due to the different types of whistleblower cases and variations in California whistleblower laws, there is no simple answer to this question. Some whistleblower cases will settle before a trial occurs, and the settlement amount will not be made public. Other cases are decided by a jury. It’s important to remember that different people considering the same facts could come to different conclusions.
Generally speaking, successful claimants and whistleblower cases can recover lost wages if terminated. Sometimes they will also win damages for mental pain and suffering caused by the termination or harassment.
In rare instances, whistleblowers will be awarded punitive damages designed to punish the employer and prevent similar abuses in the future. To secure punitive damages, the legal team must convince a jury that the employer acted with fraud, oppression, or malice. In certain types of Qui Tam false claim cases, The whistleblower can pursue 50% of the damages recovered. The amount may be as high as 30% in IRS whistle-blower cases.
The Statute of Limitations in Whistleblower Cases
The statute of limitations for a whistleblower case can vary. In every case, you will have a limited amount of time to file a claim before the court will prevent you from pursuing a claim. Whistle-blowing cases frequently require a lengthy investigation, so it is best that you discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible.
Contact a Riverside Whistleblower Attorney
Because of the complexity of whistleblower cases and the likelihood that your employer will hire defense attorneys, it is essential that you reach out to an attorney with experience. Do not hesitate to contact HKM Employment Attorneys to schedule an initial consultation and learn more about how we can fight for your rights.