Employees in California have rights that are protected under both state and federal statutes. One of those rights is the right to disclose information about illicit activities to a law enforcement or government agency — doing so is often referred to as whistle-blowing.
Definition of a whistle-blower?
A whistle-blower is a person who informs a person or organization about the wrongdoings of another. In regard to California Labor Code, a whistle-blower is an employee who informs the California Labor Commissioner when an employer, businesses or organization violates California’s labor laws.
The Rights of a Whistle-Blower
Whistle-blowers can be essential to raising awareness about a workplace labor violation or providing more information regarding an alleged violation. As such, the Office of the Attorney General maintains a whistle-blower hotline that is open to any person who has information about a violation of state or federal statute.
California Labor Code Section 1102.5 states that an employer cannot make any rule that prohibits an employee from disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency. California Labor Code also states that if an employer does make a rule barring an employee from disclosing information or in any way retaliates against the employee for disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, the employer is in violation of the law.
Types of Retaliation Taken Against a Whistle-blower
When an employee is in the know about a workplace labor violation, his or her employer may attempt to prevent the employee from making the labor violation known to a government agency. As such, the employer may threaten the employee or attempt to bribe the employee, offering a raise or a better job if the information is kept confidential. In the event that the employee does make the violation known, the employer may retaliate by dismissing the employee, cutting his or her wages, demoting the employee to a lower-paying position, or otherwise penalizing the employee. California and federal labor codes prohibit all of these forms of retaliation.
Damages for Whistle-Blower Retaliation
In the event that an employee experiences retaliation, he or she has the right to file a retaliation complaint with the California Labor Commissioner. The claim must be filed in person or through the mail and must be filed no more than six months after the alleged retaliation has occurred. If filed after the six-month period, the complaint may be denied and go uninvestigated.
After the claim has been investigated and a determination regarding the claim has been made, the employee will be entitled to damages if it is determined that the alleged retaliation actually happened. Typically, these damages include compensation for lost or reduced wages. In some cases, an attorney can help a whistle-blower retain compensation for emotional injuries and stress sustained as a result of the retaliation.
Do I need an attorney if I’ve been retaliated against?
The right to disclose information to a government agency when a workplace violation occurs is an important one. And when that right is infringed upon, an employee has the right to legal action. While an attorney is not required under law when filing a retaliation complaint and pursuing damages, retaining legal counsel is strongly advised. An attorney not only can help you to file your initial retaliation complaint, but also can argue your case during a hearing and help recover your full damages amount.
At Hiden, Rott & Oertle, LLP, our employee rights attorneys are ready to get started on filling out your retaliation complaint and filing it today. Don’t feel as though you have to defend your employee rights on your own — we’re here to help. Call us today to begin at 619-296-5884.