Whistleblowers Are Protected From Employment Retaliation

Find A California Employment Lawyer for Whistleblower Retaliation Claims

When an employer is doing illegal activity, the employee who blows the whistle should be praised and not punished. If you were a victim of punishment or retaliation for doing the right thing, you could sue your employer with the help of a Labor Lawyer in California.


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What Qualifies As A Whistleblower Retaliation Claim In California?


A "Whistleblower" is defined as an employee who has reported their employer for doing illegal or unethical practices. As with a general Workplace Retaliation definition, a "Whistleblower Retaliation" is when the same employee was retaliated or punished because of reporting on or filing a complaint.


Actions that qualify as "blowing-the-whistle" are as follows:

  • Reporting poor and unsafe working environments to OSHA

  • Exposing an employer's scheme to evade government taxes

  • Offering witness testimonies related to employment claims lodged against your employer

  • Reporting wrong and unfair business practices

  • Exposing fraudulent behavior

All the examples above are considered to be "protected acts," and they should not get you fired, suspended, or demoted for doing them.


Several state and federal whistleblower protection statutes cover all public and private employees who report workplace wrongdoing. According to federal whistleblower protection statutes, it is prohibited to fire employees in retaliation for filing a lawsuit or disclosing wrongdoing.


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Here are the laws that favor you:

  • The Federal Clean Air Act

  • OSHA

  • Toxic Substance Control Act

  • Pollution Prevention Act

Similarly, most states consider it illegal to fire employees for reporting their bosses' misbehavior. These standards, however, differ in terms of who is covered (public or private employees) and who receives defense (such as co-workers and other business entities).


How Do I Know I'm A Target Of Whistleblower Retaliation?


The most obvious kind of retaliation is losing your job for reporting a workplace offense, which is usually considered unjust termination. The following are some of the more subtle implications of whistleblower retaliation for which you may be eligible for legal recourse:

  • Refusal to promote you, even when you would've been if you hadn't blown the whistle

  • Pay cuts and wage theft

  • Initiates or tolerates acts of harassment targeting you

  • Giving you unjust and unfounded negative feedback or reviews for your work

  • Facilitating or ignoring acts of discrimination thrown at you

If any of these happened to you or your experience wasn't properly represented on the list, contact a Labor Law Attorney in California.


What If I Was Wrong?


Even if there was no actual misconduct, California law protects employees who report their employers. Thus, you are covered from any unfavorable consequences of your actions as long as you believe one of your colleagues or superiors acted inappropriately or illegally.


What Do I Need To Prove?


Employees who speak out against bullying or abuse are protected from being fired. However, any criminal behavior against you can be used to prove retaliation in the workplace.

Over a third of the discrimination and wrongful termination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the last five years have included a retaliation claim. If an employee files a complaint alleging retaliation by their employer, they must explain three elements:

Proof #1: You Took Part in A Protected Activity.


Both federal provisions prohibiting employers from discriminating against their employees also prohibit retaliation against employees who engage in protected conduct. As a result, when workers denounce any act that federal statutes make unconstitutional, such as segregation or coercion, they engage in protected activity.

Employees are protected against retaliation when they complain about abuse or bias and when they participate in an administrative inquiry of such a complaint.

Employees who file a discrimination or harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or another state agency, participate in an investigation conducted by such an agency, or file a complaint of discrimination or harassment are protected from retaliation by their employer. In addition, workers who participate in a company's internal audit may be eligible for termination immunity under these regulations in specific circumstances.

Proof #2: The employer has taken adverse actions against the employee.


Under federal and state legislation, an employer's adverse action against an employee could be considered retaliation, especially if the conduct stopped the employee from making a valid complaint or engaging in protected behavior.

Wrongful termination, wage reduction, poor job assessments, demotion, displacement, a shift in work assignments or responsibilities (typically for the worse), or changes in other terms and circumstances of employment are examples of the employer's adverse actions.

Proof #3: Your involvement in protected practices prompted the retaliation.


It is also unnecessary for employees to prove that they engaged in protected activity and were subjected to retaliation in a workplace harassment case. Instead, they will have to prove that there is a link between the two cases.

In other words, workers must explain how their participation in the protected action provoked retaliation.

Whether an employer readily recognizes it or offers a verbal or written threat, showing causal causation will be challenging in most circumstances. In such cases, employees must usually establish evidence of retaliation, such as the timing of the adverse action. For starters, there is a strong case for retaliation if the adverse action occurs due to the employee's protest.


An employee who claims retaliation should also show that the person who imposed the adverse action was aware of the allegation or the covered behavior in which the employee was involved. It would be impossible to prove retaliation because the employer was unaware of the claimant's covered conduct.


In some cases, an employee may show that the supervisor had no other reason to pursue disciplinary action. This is especially true if it contradicts the boss's justification for the unpleasant behavior.


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How Do I Report My Employer To The Dept. of Labor?


Although the process for submitting a complaint will differ depending on the law and agency that applies to your circumstance, the following are important considerations to keep in mind as you prepare to blow the whistle:

  • Consider whether or not this is a problem that can be remedied within the company. Employers can't fix problems they aren't aware of, and some issues are accidental.

  • Keep thorough records of the situation, any complaints you make, and how HR and your colleagues respond to your reports.

  • Determine which laws and departments within the agency apply to your situation. The Department of Labor has various agencies that deal with multiple types of complaints.

  • Before contacting the Department of Labor, check with the appropriate agency or division to see if you wish to send your report to a state agency.

  • File your claim within the agency or division's specified timeframe. If you don't submit your report on time, you'll miss out on the chance to have it addressed by the Department of Labor.

Find A Whistleblower Retaliation Attorney in California


Gency.org can help you find a Contingency Lawyer for your Employment Cases in California. No win, no fees! You can complete our submission form for a free case review.

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