A whistleblower is an individual who reports fraud or other unlawful conduct. At Rukin Hyland, we provide a full range of legal services to whistleblowers who report illegal conduct by their employers and other businesses. Individuals who have already reported illegal conduct, or who are considering doing so, may need legal advice and representation for several reasons. Whistleblowers may require advice and assistance in making a formal complaint—whether internally or to a governmental enforcement agency—or if the complaint is related to unlawful conduct by an employer, the individual may need assistance addressing potential retaliation.
At Rukin Hyland, we assist employees with filing and prosecuting whistleblower claims. Our attorneys frequently begin cases by educating whistleblowers about their rights and explaining the pros and cons of filing a complaint and the process of doing so. Some laws, such as Dodd-Frank and the False Claims Act, permit an individual who reports fraud or other unlawful activity to collect a portion of the money ultimately recovered.
Our attorneys also help whistleblowers facing retaliation. It is against the law for an employer to retaliate against a whistleblower, and many different laws create protection for whistleblowers.
California recently expanded the scope of its own California Whistleblower Protection Act. Pursuant to this law—California Labor Code Section 1102.5—employers cannot retaliate against an employee for disclosing information that the employee has reasonably believes may violate a local, state, or federal law, rule, or regulation to (1) a government or law enforcement agency, (2) a person with authority over the employee, or (3) to another employee who has authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or (4) from providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry. It is also unlawful for employers to punish an employee for refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of a local, state, or federal rule or law. To prove a wrongful termination retaliation claim under the Labor Code, a plaintiff must prove:
- that he or she engaged in protected activity, for example, that he reported to his supervisor that the employer was engaged in unlawful acts;
- an adverse employment action, for example, a demotion or a termination; and
- that a causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse employment action.
Federal and state laws also protect individuals who file complaints in the following areas:
- Health care fraud
- Military and defense contract fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Investor, financial and tax fraud
- False financial reporting
- Construction contract fraud
- Mortgage and loan fraud
- Consumer fraud involving unsafe foods and products
- Workplace safety violations
Certain whistleblower claims may also be filed without the employer’s knowledge. Claims under federal and state qui tam laws are filed under seal and investigated by government agencies before the company is notified of the lawsuit.
- For more information on the reporting of fraud committed by companies against U.S. and state governments through the False Claims Act (FCA) and its state equivalents, see our blog post: The Rise of the Anti-Fraud Whistleblower.
Additionally, California law allows for a cause of action for wrongful termination as against public policy – or “Tameny” claims – named after a case in which the California Supreme Court held that an employer’s authority to terminate an employee at will may be limited by public policy considerations. Some examples of situations that might give rise to a Tameny claim include: reporting unsafe working conditions, refusing to sign a non-compete agreement, refusing to engage in unlawful conduct, reporting unlawful conduct, or participating in a workplace investigation.
The lawyers at Rukin Hyland are skilled at handling cases involving wrongful termination and retaliation in whistleblower cases. We work with employees to prevent retaliation and to assert the rights of employees who have been fired or experienced other forms of workplace retaliation as a result of reporting illegal conduct. If you would like to speak with our attorneys about your situation or request a free consultation, please contact us.