San Francisco Whistleblower Protection Lawyer
What Are California Whistleblower Laws?
Whistleblowers are vital to protecting their co-workers and society and spur employers to change dangerous, harmful and unlawful practices. Whistleblower laws protect employees and other courageous individuals who object to or expose wrongdoing.
Does California Have Whistleblower Protection Laws?
Yes, California has a number of different whistleblower protection laws. California Labor Code Section 1102.5 is the broadest California whistleblower law protecting both private and public sector employees in the State of California. Under Section 1102.5, it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for disclosing information that the employee reasonably believes may violate a local, state, or federal law, rule, or regulation. The law protects employees even if an employer ultimately proves that its actions were not unlawful if the employee can point to a specific statute, rule, or regulation that they reasonably believed may have been violated.
Section 1102.5 also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee where the employer believes the employee may make a protected disclosure, even if the disclosure hasn’t happened yet. For example, a California court found that Section 1102.5 applied where a company terminated an employee, allegedly because a government agency sought to interview the employee for an agency audit, and the company believed that the employee might disclose adverse information about the company’s noncompliance with the law.
Section 1102.5 further protects employees who refuse to participate in an activity that would violate a state or federal statute or local, state, or federal rule or regulation. For example, if your boss asks you to violate health and safety laws or commit fraudulent billing, and you refuse to comply with their unlawful request, you are covered by Section 1102.5.
What types of disclosures are protected?
Disclosures that are reported to government or law enforcement agencies, to an employee’s boss, or to a co-worker who has the authority to investigate or correct the violation are all protected under Section 1102.5. Employees are also protected if they are providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation or hearing.
What isn’t covered by Section 1102.5?
Alleged violations of internal company policies or disagreements about employee reviews, writeups, or transfers that don’t otherwise involve a violation of a local, state, or federal law, rule, or regulation are not covered. Courts have held that these types of disclosures are unprotected, routine internal personnel disclosures.
How do I prove my employer retaliated against me?
To prove a retaliation claim under the Labor Code, a plaintiff must prove (1) that he or she engaged in protected activity, for example, that he reported to his supervisor that the employer was engaged in unlawful acts; (2) an adverse employment action, for example, a demotion or a termination; and (3) that a causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. An employee asserting a retaliation claim can rely on both circumstantial evidence (for example, by showing that she was terminated the day after she reported unsafe working conditions) or direct evidence (for example, an email from her boss stating that she would fire any “whiners” who reported her unlawful activity).
How long do I have to bring my whistleblower lawsuit?
You have three years to bring your claims under Labor Code Section 1102.5.
What is the California Whistleblower Protection Act?
Government Code Section 8547 et seq., also known as the California Whistleblower Protection Act, protects California state employees who report waste, fraud, abuse of authority, threats to public health, and other violations of the law. State employees can report violations to the State Auditor, who investigates reports of improper governmental activity.
The California Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits retaliation against state employee whistleblowers. A State of California employee who believes he or she has been retaliated against should file a complaint with the State Personnel Board within 12 months of the last act of reprisal. Employees are also entitled to file an action in court after exhausting their remedies with the State Personnel Board and are entitled to punitive damages if the reprisal is found to be malicious.
What Are Other California Whistleblower Laws?
California also provides whistleblower protections for employees reporting specific types of conduct.
Labor Code § 98.6
Labor Code Section 98.6 prohibits an employer from taking any adverse action against an employee because the employee made a written or oral complaint that they are owed unpaid wages or otherwise tried to assert their employment rights. The law entitles an employee to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the adverse actions of their employer.
Labor Code §§ 6310 and 6311
Labor Code Section 6310 prohibits employers from taking any adverse action against an employee who has made a complaint to a government agency or their employer regarding unsafe working conditions or work practices or has participated in an employer-employee occupational health and safety committee. The law entitles employees to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits.
Labor Code Section 6311 prohibits an employer from discharging an employee who refuses to perform work that violates California’s health and safety laws where the violation would create a real and apparent hazard to the employee or the employee’s coworkers. The law entitles the employee to recover lost wages due to discharge.
Cal. Gov. Code § 12940
California Government Code Section 12940 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of the race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status of any person. Any person who has filed a complaint, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under the law is protected from discrimination or discharge.
Health and Safety Code § 1278.5
Sometimes referred to as the “healthcare whistleblower statute,” Section 1278.5 encourages patients, nurses, medical staff, and other health care workers to notify government entities of suspected unsafe patient care and conditions. The law primarily applies to issues relating to the care, services, and conditions of a facility and prohibits a health facility from discriminating or retaliating against a patient, employee, medical staff member, or other health care worker who has done either of the following:
- Presented a grievance, complaint, or report to the facility, to an entity or agency responsible for accrediting or evaluating the facility, or the medical staff of the facility, or to any other governmental entity.
- Initiated, participated, or cooperated in an investigation or administrative proceeding related to the quality of care, services, or conditions at the facility that is carried out by an entity or agency responsible for accrediting or evaluating the facility or its medical staff, or governmental entity.
An employee who has been discriminated against is entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits.
Whistleblower Protection FAQ
If you have suffered an adverse employment action because you reported unlawful or unsafe workplace activities, you should consult an attorney for advice about your legal options.