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When unlawful activity occurs in the workplace, many are tempted to look away as they fear for their employment. However, there are laws in place to protect “whistleblowers” from retaliatory conduct, and at Attorneys for Employees (AFE) our Los Angeles whistleblower attorneys combine our extensive experience with the protection provided by these laws to ensure our clients receive the protection they deserve.

About California’s Whistleblower Protection Act

California is a state that affords significant protection to whistleblowers through the Whistleblower Protection Act. The purpose of this act is to ensure that employees who report illegal conduct by their employer do not suffer retaliation at the hands of that employer. Specifically, the act includes the following provisions:

  • In addition to providing protection to state and federal whistleblowers, the act also covers employees in the private sector
  • Reports of wrongdoing made to government officials, including the police, are protected
  • Reports of wrongdoing made internally are protected, as well as those made to any public body that may conduct a hearing or investigation
  • Disclosure of the wrongful conduct does not have to be the responsibility of the party making the report in order for the protections afforded under the act to apply
  • Liability extends not only to the employer but also to anyone acting on their behalf, such as a third-party contractor

If you are an employee and suffer retaliation, you may be able to seek recovery for loss of income, benefits, emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.

Federal Protection for Whistleblowers

There are various statutes that provide protection for whistleblowers on a federal level. The most commonly cited is the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) (5 U.S.C §2302 (b)(8)), which protects federal employees (or applicants for federal employment) who disclose information that they reasonably believe to be evidence of:

  • a violation of any law, rule, or regulation;
  • gross mismanagement;
  • a gross waste of funds;
  • an abuse of authority;
  • a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

Examples of Retaliatory Conduct

Retaliatory conduct against a whistleblower may take different forms, including:

  • Denial of promotion that has been earned
  • Termination from employment
  • An involuntary transfer or demotion
  • Threats or other forms of intimidation
  • An unfair, poor performance review
  • Suspension from employment
  • Denial of bonus or other benefits
  • Exposure to a hostile work environment

Requirements to Secure Whistleblower Protection

If you believe you have information that qualifies you as a whistleblower (should you choose to report it), you will need to be careful to ensure that you receive the protections afforded under the law. Different whistleblower statutes have different requirements for securing protection; and, if you do not take all of the necessary steps within the timeframe that is allowed, you could lose your eligibility. For example, depending on the law that applies, you may be subject to requirements with respect to:

  • How long you have to report the information
  • The state or federal agency to which you must report the information
  • The nature and substantiality of the information you provide  

If you do not meet all of the relevant requirements, you may not qualify for whistleblower protection even if you report the information you have. As a result, if you are thinking about blowing the whistle on your employer, we strongly encourage you to contact us so that one of our attorneys can help guide you forward.

Along with helping you secure whistleblower protection, our attorneys can help you protect your other legal rights as well. For example, if you are blowing the whistle on harassment or discrimination in the workplace, our attorneys can help you seek additional remedies under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), or any other anti-harassment or anti-discrimination laws that may apply.

Understanding Your Rights as a Whistleblower in Los Angeles

Just as different laws establish different requirements for securing whistleblower protection, employees’ rights under the various California and federal whistleblower statutes vary as well. Generally speaking, however, your rights as a whistleblower in Los Angeles include:

  • The Right to Protection Against EmploymentRelated Retaliation – When you qualify as a whistleblower, you are entitled to protection against employment-related retaliation. This includes not only protection against termination, but also protection against all of the other examples of retaliatory conduct listed above.
  • The Right to Financial Compensation for Unlawful Retaliation – If your employer unlawfully retaliates against you after you blow the whistle, you can seek financial compensation for your employer’s violation of the law. This includes compensation for your loss of income and benefits, emotional trauma, and harm to your professional reputation.
  • The Right to Punitive Damages for Malicious Retaliation – In some cases, employees can also recover punitive damages if their employers engage in malicious retaliation. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to any financial compensation owed. Malicious retaliation involves intentionally attempting to cause financial, emotional or reputational harm through adverse employment action.

In many cases, whistleblowers will be entitled to additional financial compensation if the information they provide leads to a successful government enforcement action. For example, in qui tam cases under the California Whistleblower Protection Act, eligible whistleblowers can receive rewards of 15 to 33 percent of the funds recovered by the government. The federal False Claims Act, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and Securities and Exchange Act (among other federal laws) include whistleblower reward provisions as well. 

Let A Los Angeles Whistleblower Attorney Protect You

If you have reported your employer for wrongdoing, or if you are considering reporting your employer for wrongdoing and want to be sure you are afforded every protection under the law, you need to speak with a Los Angeles Whistleblower Attorney at AFE. We specialize in assisting employees from all walks of life and are able to help you through the process. Contact us by filling out our intake form.