A whistleblower is an employee who raises a concern about potentially unlawful conduct by his/her employer. California law protects employees who report their suspicions of illegal activity either to their employer or to a government agency.
Examples of illegal activities by employers include:
- Preparing unsafe and/or contaminated food;
- Mislabeling products;
- Violating OSHA laws which require employers to provide a safe workplace for its employees and customers;
- Violating wage & hour laws such as denying meal and rest breaks and forcing employees to perform unpaid “off the clock” work;
- Misclassifying employees in order to avoid paying overtime work;
- Engaging in theft, embezzlement or fraudulent activities, including unlawful overbilling of customers;
- Unlawfully discriminating against others on the basis of age, sex, race, national origin or disability;
- Fraud in the health care industry such as altering medical records, false billing for medical services, filing false insurance claims;
- Unsafe patient care;
- Falsifying employment records.
Additionally, California law protects employees who refuse to comply with unlawful instructions. An employer has no authority to instruct an employee to perform an illegal act. Similarly, an employer may not terminate employees for refusing to perform an illegal act. If, for example, an employer instructs its supervisor to violate health and safety laws but the supervisor refuses, it is unlawful for the employer to then retaliate.
There are many types of retaliation. The most common are:
- giving the employee unfair performance reviews;
- demoting the employee;
- cutting the employee’s hours;
- taking away the employee’s opportunity to work overtime;
- giving the employee unfair warnings and discipline;
- barring the employee from training;
- excluding the employee from meetings and conferences;
- labeling the employee “a troublemaker”;
- refusing to transfer the employee; and
- terminating the employee.
If you suspect illegal activity in the workplace or have reported suspicious activity to either your employer or a government agency and believe you have suffered any type of retaliation, please contact us for a free initial consultation, and let us put our experience and dedication to work for you. We will evaluate your situation and explain your legal options.