Occasionally, we see news reports about an employee who has gone to the authorities over the illegal dealings of his or her employer. These employees are called ‘whistleblowers’, and they have protections under federal and California laws.
In a recent example of whistleblowing, a Starkey Hearing Foundation worker claimed her employer is guilty of fraud. Starkey Hearing Foundation is a non-profit that provides hearing aids to tens of thousands of Americans. The former employee alleges her employer is guilty of exaggerating the number of hearing aids it gives out and working with private companies for funding. After being fired for raising questions about these grievances, the employee filed a whistleblower lawsuit here in Los Angeles.
How California Whistleblower Protections Shield Workers from Retaliation
Depending on the circumstances, employees in similar situations may be able to take advantage of whistleblower protections. Employees are defined as whistleblowers if they:
- Disclose a violation of federal or state laws to a government agency, law enforcement, a superior or another employee with authority for purposes of investigation
- Disclose noncompliance of local, state or federal rules and regulations
- Report unsafe working conditions or practices
Employers cannot retaliate against whistleblowers, which includes firing. In addition, employers cannot adopt company rules that discourage or prevent whistleblowing. Many states, including California, offer anonymous tip hotlines for whistleblowers to report illegal, unsafe and unethical activities.
The former Starkey Hearing Foundation employee alleges she was fired after raising questions about exaggerated numbers and conflicts of interest with private companies. If her allegations are true, she may be successful in suing her former employer.