Our Los Angeles employment lawyers get this question a lot – “Can my employer fire me because I reported illegal activity?” Whether you report illegal activity to a government entity or to your employer, the quick answer to this question is no. Reporting illegal activity is also known as “whistleblowing,” which is protected under California law. Termination resulting from it is a form of workplace retaliation and wrongful termination. Our Los Angeles employment attorneys discuss this more below.
What Is a Whistleblower in California?
An employee who exposes illegal activity by his or her employer in the workplace is a whistleblower. You may disclose this information to any of the following parties:
- Government or law enforcement agencies
- Person(s) with authority over the employee
- Another employee who has authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance
- Any public body conducting an investigation, hearing or an inquiry
California whistleblowers are protected from retaliation under Section 1102.5 of the California Labor Code. This is also known as California’s whistleblowing statute.
How Am I Protected From Reporting Illegal Activity by My Employer?
California’s whistleblowing statute has evolved over the years. However, it has always protected employees who filed a complaint with a government agency, or participated in an investigation of his or her employer, from workplace retaliation.
Workplace retaliation occurs when an employer subjects an employee to an adverse employment action for engaging in a legally protected activity. As examples, retaliation could take the form of any of the following actions:
- Pay decrease
- Job reassignment
- Poor performance review
- Hostile work environment
On January 1, 2014, the scope of Section 1102.5 expanded in three important ways:
- An employee no longer has to report the illegal activity to a government agency to get protection against retaliation under the law. An employer cannot retaliate against employees because it believes that the employee disclosed information internally to a person with authority over the employee, or to another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe such information constitutes a violation of law.
- The law prohibits retaliation against an employee because the employer “believes the employee disclosed or may disclose information” to someone. In other words, an employee does not actually have to report an illegal activity to get protection under the law. An employer who retaliates against an employee based on the belief that the employee may engage in a protected activity is also in violation of California law.
- An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for disclosing or refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of or noncompliance with a local rule or regulation in addition to a federal or state statute, rule or regulation.
Facing Workplace Retaliation? Contact Our Los Angeles Workplace Retaliation Lawyers
Do you believe that you have been subjected to workplace retaliation? We encourage you to speak with our retaliation lawyers about your unique situation. You may have a viable whistleblower claim.
An experienced employment law attorney can help you navigate the legal process to successfully litigate a retaliation claim. Call us at (310) 526-8152 or contact us online and we will be in touch with you soon.