Society depends on companies to obey the law and act ethically. But many corrupt organizations fail in their legal and ethical obligations and engage in all kinds of fraudulent behavior. When that happens, it falls to everyday people to take action.
Nevertheless, deciding to blow the whistle on your employer is a huge decision. Employers willing to break the law often will not hesitate to retaliate against whistleblowers. The good news is that you have rights. Both state and federal law protects whistleblowers from retaliation. Take a few moments to read about the key to a successful whistleblower action. This article will also discuss the legal definition of a whistleblower and existing whistleblower protections.
If you have blown the whistle on your employer or are thinking about it, reach out to one of our Mountain View whistleblower lawyers right away.
What Is a Whistleblower?
Dictionary.com defines “whistleblower” as “a person who informs on another or makes public disclosure of corruption, wrongdoing, problems, or secret information, especially within an organization.” But that is just a general definition. When it comes to filing a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit, you need to know the legal definition of a whistleblower.
This is where things become more complicated. There are multiple federal and state laws in California protecting whistleblowers. Each one defines whistleblower differently. For instance, the False Claims Act (FCA) defines a whistleblower as anyone who reports fraud against the federal government by a private company. Under the FCA, someone who reports fraud against a state government or a private company is not a whistleblower, but they may be under another law. So to discover whether you qualify as a whistleblower, you need to understand which law applies to your case.
California Whistleblower Protections
Multiple federal and state laws protect whistleblowers in different contexts. For instance, California Labor Code Section 1102.5 prohibits retaliation against an employee who has reported their employer for:
- Violating a state or federal law;
- Violating or refusing to comply with a local, state, or federal regulation; or
- Allowing unsafe working conditions or work practices to exist at the employee’s workplace.
Under this section, the employee need not disclose information to a government employee to qualify as a whistleblower. They are also deemed a whistleblower if they make the report to a supervisor, another employee who can investigate wrongdoing, or a public body. Compared to the FCA, the definition of a whistleblower under California Labor Code Section 1102.5 is very broad.
Federal Laws with Whistleblower Protections
Earlier, we mentioned the False Claims Act. However, there are several other federal laws that protect whistleblowers in different situations. For example the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOA) allows employees of companies that are listed on public stock exchanges, or otherwise regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to report fraudulent activities. Specific activities that an employee can report under the SOA include securities fraud, shareholder fraud, wire fraud, or any violations of federal securities laws. Section 806 of the SOA specifically prohibits terminating, demoting, suspending, harassing, or discriminating in any way against a whistleblower because of their disclosures. Similarly, the Dodd-Frank Act actually incentivizes people to report violations of securities laws.
Common Types of Whistleblower Reports
Although all whistleblower disclosures involve a violation of federal or California law, some claims are particularly common. These claims include:
- Healthcare fraud. Healthcare fraud includes situations where physicians or nurses bill Medicare and Medicaid for unnecessary tests. It also occurs when healthcare companies use incorrect medical billing codes to receive extra Medicare funds.
- Tax fraud. Tax fraud involves bogus tax returns filed by private companies and organizations. It may also include allegations of funneling money into shell companies to hide income and expenses.
- Labor violations. Unethical companies sometimes force workers to report fewer hours than they actually worked. Other labor violations include illegal discrimination and harassment, such as sexual harassment.
- Government contracting fraud. The government continually hires private companies to carry out special goods and services on its behalf. Contracting fraud claims often include allegations that a contractor provided intentionally shoddy or defective goods to the government to cut down costs.
- Consumer Fraud. Many employees speak up when their companies defraud or deceive consumers. There are a wide variety of industries where whistleblowers commonly report illegal consumer practices, including the mortgage industry, the banking industry, and other companies that provide financial services..
If you are considering reporting any of these or another violation, reach out to an experienced whistleblower attorney to better understand your options and the potential consequences.
What Should I Do If I Suspect Whistleblower Retaliation?
The first thing to do is to confirm that your employer is violating a state or federal law or regulation or is engaging in some kind of fraudulent behavior.
Once you have done that, collect all the evidence you possibly can. Common types of evidence include video and audio recordings, emails, written documents, and company policies. We also encourage you to keep a journal of all your activities. Be sure to note key conversations, dates, and actions.
Once you have taken these steps, retain an experienced attorney. Ideally, you will want to hire a local Mountain View attorney with experience defending whistleblowers. You should also confirm that the attorney has a proven track record of success and positive customer reviews.
Find Out More About Your Claim with One of Our Mountain View Whistleblower Attorneys Today
It’s essential to move quickly if you want to file a whistleblower claim. Waiting gives bad actors more time to cover up their tracks. In addition, time inevitably causes evidence to degrade. You can even have your case thrown out of court if you wait too long.
When you set up a free and confidential consultation with King & Siegel, we will sit down with you and hear your story. Once you tell us the facts of your case, our skillful attorneys will apply the law to your situation and present your legal options. Whatever you decide, we are committed to providing you the aggressive legal representation you deserve. In addition, we pride ourselves on being accessible to our clients and staying in constant communication with them. Lastly, we have a great track record with our customers, as shown by our many outstanding client testimonials. Worried about legal fees? Don’t be. We offer each potential client a free and confidential case review session. So don’t wait. Contact us today.