Whistleblower laws, those that protect employees who report wrongdoing by their employers, have been in place for a number of years at the federal level and in every state in the union. Federal laws protect federal workers who report government wrongdoing, and also private employees who report federal law violations or misappropriation of federal funds by government contractors.
As states go, California has one of the strongest whistleblower laws on the books. The California Labor Code prohibits public or private employers from retaliating against employees who disclose information about violations of state, local, or federal law to a government or law enforcement agency or to a person with authority to investigate and correct the violations.
In 2014, the legislature strengthened these protections by amending the Code to protect not only employees who have reported wrongdoing, but also to employees the employer believes may report such information. This new feature has employers concerned that employees who are being fired or disciplined will claim that they were about to blow the whistle and therefore are due protection. However, this argument cuts both ways.
If an employer has something to hide that would trigger employee protection if reported, it would certainly know which employees were in that loop, so to speak. It might also know of employees not in the loop who nonetheless have become aware of the wrongdoing. If the employer could legally fire these employees before they blew the whistle, that would certainly frustrate the purpose of the protections intended by the law.
If an employer is concerned about a frivolous claim of whistleblower protection, then that employer is almost acknowledging that there are things that could or should be reported. Employees, under the law, must have reasonable cause to believe that the information disclosed reveals a violation of, or non-compliance with, a state, local, or federal law. A claim by an employee that she was about to make a protected report when she was fired would have to withstand the scrutiny of whether the report constituted a reasonable belief. Where employers have nothing to hide, it would be difficult for an employee to withstand that scrutiny.
Sacramento, CA 95821