What is a California Whistle Blower?
Answered by our Los Angeles Employment Lawyers
Under U.S. law, a whistle blower (or whistleblower) is an employee who “tells” on an employer, because he or she reasonably believed that the employer committed an illegal act.
Under the Law
Under the laws of most states, whistleblowers are entitled to emotional distress and punitive damages. Now under federal law, specifically the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, any person who “interferes with” the employment or livelihood of an employee for providing any truthful information to legal authorities relating to the commission or possible commission of any federal offense, can be imprisoned for up to 10 years, and pay a fine up to $250,000.
What is Whistle Blower Protection?
Whistle blower protection is provided by Federal acts and related statutes that shield employees from retaliation for reporting illegal acts of employers. An employer cannot rightfully retaliate in any way, such as discharging, demoting, suspending or harassing the whistle blower. If an employer retaliates anyway, whistle blower protection might entitle the employee to file a charge with a government agency, sue the employer, or both.
Typically, to be entitled to whistle blower protection, an employee must report an employer’s alleged illegal act to the proper authority, such as a government or law-enforcement agency. If you have seen an illegal act, our Los Angeles employment lawyer can assist you in contacting the proper authorities.
An employee might not be entitled to whistle blower protection for reporting an illegal act only within the company. However, the employee might be protected from retaliation by public policy or other laws. For example, if an employee reports sexual harassment to the company’s HR department, he or she is protected from retaliation by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. A Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer can explain the differences to you.
Even if it turns out that an employer did not actually break a law, an employee is still entitled to whistle blower protection from retaliation, if he or she reasonably believed that the employer committed an illegal act. However, whistle blower protection typically does not include employer retaliation for employee complaints about personal dislikes. To be protected from employer retaliation, an employee typically must report an alleged violation of a Federal law that has provisions to shield whistle blowers. (Though at the state level, some protect whistle blowers who report alleged violations of any laws, regulations or ordinances.) Collectively, such provisions are called whistle blower protections or whistle blower laws.
Whistle blower laws and other laws that that have provisions for employer retaliation protection are enforced by a number of government agencies. A Los Angeles employment attorney can explain these laws and how they can protect you. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and its divisions enforce several major laws that directly protect whistle blowers or have provisions to shield employees from retaliation, for reporting violations of the laws, refusing to engage in any action made unlawful by the laws, or participating in any proceedings under the laws.
Federal whistle blower laws mandate only the minimums to which all states must adhere. States are allowed to create their own whistle blower laws, which include or expand upon the minimum protections afforded by the Federal laws. To research your state’s whistle blower laws, start with the resources listed in State Labor Law and Employment Law. Alternately or additionally, contact your state’s department of labor.
Before blowing the whistle, it is a good idea to seek the advice of an attorney in your state, to ensure a whistle blower law or a like provision protects you in another law.
If you have seen your employer conduct an illegal act and you are not sure how to handle the situation, contact a Los Angeles employment lawyer at our law firm today to set up a consultation. As a Los Angeles whistleblower, you do have rights and you need to be protected.