No one is born a whistleblower. Few choose it as a career path. Rather, it is often a role thrust upon individuals who just want to do their jobs: bookkeepers, appraisers, lawyers, IT technicians, accountants, analysts and traders to name a few. Staying silent may mean watching while the institution harms innocent third parties or even the public. Sometimes it means becoming part of the cover-up.
If you have blown the whistle on illegal practices you observed in your company and, as a result, have been demoted, fired or endured an adverse working environment that caused you to quit, you may be able to pursue legal action against your employer. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to seek reinstatement, compensation for lost wages and benefits and even attorney fees.
California law prohibits employers from firing, demoting, or taking what is called an “adverse employment action” against you for reporting or telling your employer that you are going to report any unlawful conduct such as, for a few examples, a health or safety violation, not paying overtime or proper wages, or not giving uninterrupted rest or lunch breaks.
In addition to employment retaliation, whistleblower often experience threats or acts of physical violence. Consequently, whistleblower’s activities are done in secret and whistleblowers are protected by state and federal law. To qualify for protection under “whistleblower protection laws,” a person need not report an activity that is in fact a violation of law or public policy. The employee must only reasonably believe that the activity being reported is in violation of the law or of public policy.
In addition, to obtain the protection of the whistleblower statutes, a disclosure must be made to someone outside of the company. The whistleblower statutes do not complaints made internally, though retaliatory conduct based on internal disclosures may be protected in other ways.
A qui tam lawsuit is typically brought by the government against a company after a private citizen has identified to the government the corrupt conduct. Very often, the person reporting fraud against the government (the qui tam plaintiff) is a company employee, but almost anyone can bring a qui tam case. Whistleblower protection remedies under the qui tam statutes protect a qui tam plaintiff who is terminated in retaliation.
The relator in a qui tam action is the first one to bring the case to the government. That person’s name is kept confidential until the government either decides not to pursue the case or the government has resolved the case.
If you have been the victim of whistle blowing retaliation in Sacramento, Folsom and/or Northern California, there are various damages you may be compensated for, including:
- Reinstatement of your past position, with back pay
- Restoration of seniority and responsibility
- Payment for litigation costs and attorney fees
- Compensation for emotional suffering
There are state and federal laws that expressly prohibit employers from disciplining or firing employees because they reported wrongdoing by the company or management. However, despite these strong legal protections, many employees remain hesitant to report any wrongdoing out of fear of retaliation.
If you report your employer or make known your intention to report to legal authorities because you have witnessed illegal activities on the job, and are later terminated or discriminated against, it is important to establish that your whistleblower action caused you to be fired.
The employment law attorneys of Bowman & Associates help clients across Northern California from our offices in Sacramento and Folsom. If you or someone you know have been a victim of retaliation or wrongful termination because of “blowing the whistle” you may have a case. Contact our experienced lawyers today for a free consultation.