California has several laws that protect employees who “blow the whistle” on their employer’s illegal conduct. However, some people hesitate to report their employer, especially if they are contract or temporary workers. Employers sometimes assume that temporary or contract workers have fewer rights with respect to whistleblower protections than do permanent employees. This is incorrect.
Speak with our Los Angeles whistleblower attorneys at King & Siegel LLP if you have questions your rights as a contract or temporary employee. We can review your case and help identify if your employer violated any laws or regulations.
Contract and Temporary Employees Have Whistleblower Rights
According to a recent court case, California’s whistleblower protection law applies to anyone who meets the common law definition of an employee. Generally speaking, an employee is anyone working for someone else and under their control. This definition generally applies to contract employees and temporary workers. Put differently, classifying someone as a “temp” or contract employee does not give employers a license to retaliate.
California Whistleblower Laws
Various laws provide whistleblower rights for temporary employees. Some of these include specific penalties if an employer retaliates. Most statutes provide a private right of action, meaning a wronged employee may pursue a civil claim against their employer.
California Labor Code 1102.5
California’s general whistleblower protection law gives employees the legal right to report an employer’s illegal conduct to the government, law enforcement, or company supervisors. Under recent case law, an employee can file a complaint even if the government or employer is already aware of the conduct. Your employer can receive a $10,000 fine for each violation of this law.
California Health and Safety Code Section 1278.5
This law protects healthcare employees who report unsafe patient care or conditions from retaliation by their employers. The statute offers whistleblower rights for contract employees, not only doctors and nurses. Employers who violate this law face civil fines of up to $25,000 and misdemeanor penalties of up to $75,000.
Labor Code 98.6
Employees have the right to report violations of labor laws to the California Labor Commissioner. These complaints can involve wage/hour issues or general Labor Code violations. Employees who violate this law can receive a $10,000 civil fine for each violation.
Labor Code 6310
The California government wants to create safe working environments. Under California law, employees can file complaints regarding unsafe working conditions with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Employers can’t retaliate against you or your family for making these complaints.
Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
Many employees face harassment and discrimination on the job. California’s FEHA protects workers who experience any adverse actions due to their race, religion, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, and more. The law empowers workers to report this conduct to the Civil Rights Department without fear of retaliation.
How to File a Complaint Against Your Employer
Filing a complaint or lawsuit against your employer can have serious ramifications. Following the proper steps can help protect your rights and ensure your complaint complies with the law.
Speak with an Attorney
It’s best to speak with a Los Angeles employment attorney before taking any action. They know the various whistleblower rights for temp employees. An attorney can review the facts of your case and tell you if your employer violated the law. If so, your lawyer can outline your legal options and guide you through the process.
Building a compelling case requires documentation of the alleged violations. Collect relevant evidence, such as emails, witness statements, or anything supporting your claim. The strength of your evidence plays a vital role in the success of your complaint. Once you have everything, your attorney can include it with your complaint to show the wrongful conduct.
Check the Statute of Limitations
Each whistleblower protection law has a statute of limitations. This is the deadline to file a complaint with a government regulator or civil lawsuit. For example, you have three years to file a civil lawsuit for a Labor Code violation but only one year to file a complaint to the Labor Commissioner. An attorney can find these deadlines for you, but they may be unable to help after they pass.
Follow the Right Process
These laws only protect you if you complete all required steps. Some require you to submit a formal complaint before filing a civil lawsuit. If you miss a step or go out of order, a court may dismiss your case. For this reason, it’s best not to take any action without speaking with an attorney.
What Damages Can I Receive If My Employer Retaliates?
You can file a civil lawsuit or government complaint if your employer retaliates against you. You can request compensation for any damages caused by your employer’s conduct. The damages you can receive depend on the lawsuit or complaint you file.
Some of the damages you can receive when whistleblowing as a contract employee include:
- Lost wages and benefits,
- Emotional distress,
- Pain and suffering, and
- Punitive damages.
In addition to this, the Labor Commissioner can order your employer to compensate you for a violation. This can include:
- Reinstating your position,
- Paying lost wages, and
- Paying your attorney’s fees.
Calculating these damages can be difficult, especially when it comes to emotional and psychological harm. An attorney can help you determine the value of these injuries when filing your lawsuit.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Employment Lawyer
The team at King & Siegel LLP knows all the whistleblower rights contract employees have under California law. Our lawyers regularly help employees stand up against their employers, especially when facing retaliation. We have helped our clients recover millions in damages and are ready to fight for you. Call our office to schedule your free case evaluation.