Are you a San Diego resident considering whether to file a complaint against your employer? Or have you suffered harm after complaining about illegal or unethical activity? If so, you need a local whistleblower attorney to protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.
At the same time, we understand that deciding whether to blow the whistle can be hard. Whistleblowing protection is not an area of the law that many people are familiar with. So take a few moments to review the basics of whistleblowing and whistleblowing activity.
We hope this will answer many of your questions and equip you with the required knowledge. But if you want to learn more about how San Diego whistleblower law applies to your case, contact one of our San Diego whistleblower lawyers today for a free and confidential initial consultation.
Who Is a Whistleblower?
Simply put, a whistleblower is any person who reports illegal or unethical activity. In some cases, a whistleblower can also be someone who merely investigates potential wrongdoing. Most of the time, it does not matter to whom the whistleblower reports the illegal or unethical activity. It can be a colleague, supervisor, police officer, or government body. The requirements vary because multiple laws throughout the United States and California protect different kinds of whistleblowing. For example, the False Claims Act prohibits retaliation against anyone who reports a claim of fraudulent activity against the U.S. government by a private company.
Is Whistleblowing a Crime?
California and federal law do not prohibit or discourage whistleblowing. On the contrary, whistleblowing is a valuable public service.Whistleblowers play a critical role in improving national security, fighting crime, and improving public safety. As reported by PricewaterhouseCoopers, whistleblowers were responsible for exposing almost 50% of fraudulent activities at private corporations in 2007. Professional auditors only detected 19%. That’s why whistleblowing receives protection from federal and state governments alike. No government—be it local, state, or federal—wants employers to be able to retaliate against employees who investigate or report wrongdoing under these laws.
What Is Whistleblower Retaliation?
“Retaliation” is a common term in the legal field, but not many people understand the word’s full definition. In most cases, prohibited retaliation includes all kinds of detrimental actions (meaning, actions that harm your interests) taken in response to legitimate worker activity. Even seemingly minor changes in work assignments or small comments can qualify as a retaliatory act. The most serious acts of retaliation include:
- Termination, demotion, or suddenly being “laid off”;
- A decrease in salary (or withholding of salary);
- Suspension, reprimands, and “counselings”;
- Loss of important work assignments;
- Assignment of extra responsibilities;
- An increase in workload;
- Threats against your job or your person;
- Verbal harassment, like snide jokes and derogatory remarks;
- Reassignment to a less desirable position (even if it has the same pay);
- Physical harassment; and
- Loss of job perks (like commuting stipends, access to the company kitchen, etc.)
Many other things can also qualify as retaliation. These are just a few of the most common actions. Retaliation is sometimes very obvious. At other times, though, it can be subtle and well-hidden behind supposedly “legitimate” reasons. Consequently, it is a good idea to contact a knowledgeable whistleblower attorney even if you are not sure you are experiencing whistleblower retaliation.
What Are the Laws Protecting Whistleblowers?
One thing that complicates whistleblower law is that certain laws protect specific kinds of whistleblowing. In fact, there are at least six laws in California alone that protect whistleblowers. Here are a few of them.
The California Labor Code
The California Labor Code has several provisions that collectively provide incredible protection to whistleblowers. For instance, Section 1102.5 of the Labor Code prohibits retaliation against anyone who discloses a “violation of state or federal statute [or] noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation.” Similarly, Section 6310 states that “no person shall discharge or . . . discriminate against any employee” because the employee has made a complaint about an occupational health and safety problem. Finally, Section 98.6 protects employees who disclose wage and hour law violations.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) works to prevent discrimination in private workplaces and housing. Illegal discrimination includes discrimination because of race, gender, sexual orientation, color, national origin, religion, and age. Moreover, FEHA forbids any retaliation against employees who report illegal discrimination. The law even protects prospective employees and former employees.
The False Claims Act
The False Claims Act (FCA) is a federal law that encourages citizens to report false and misleading claims to the government. Furthermore, the FCA bans retaliation against any person who has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the government (called a qui tam lawsuit) or has reported a potential FCA violation. Common FCA violations include things like:
- Making false claims for payment from the government;
- Charging the government more than agreed to for a product or service;
- Demanding full payment from the government after providing it with inadequate or defective goods; and
- Including false or misleading statements in an application for a government contract.
The alleged fraud must be against the U.S. federal government to qualify as an FCA violation. The FCA does not include false claims made to state governments. Yet California has its own False Claims Act.
Let One of Our San Diego Whistleblower Attorneys Help You Today
Deciding to become a whistleblower isn’t an easy decision. It takes a lot of courage. However, if you have made that tough call, you have rights protecting you against discrimination and retaliation. With skilled legal assistance, you can prevail in a lawsuit against your employer and recover significant compensation. Yet it is vital you select an attorney with a proven track record of success and a passion for whistleblower law.
Here at King & Siegel, our team of San Diego whistleblower lawyers understand how retaliation can turn your life upside down. We know what it’s like to face termination, serious financial loss, and even homelessness because of your courage and integrity. That’s why we’re dedicated to protecting whistleblowers and their rights. Our lawyers have excellent legal training and many years of experience with whistleblower cases. On top of that, we are committed to furnishing exceptional client service, as our testimonials show. Want to learn more? Contact us to set up a free and confidential case review with us today.