California law protects whistleblowers, employees who disclose suspected illegal activity with “reasonable cause” to believe that a legal violation has occurred. Generally speaking, employment in California is “at will,” which means that, unless a contract or exception applies, an employee may be fired at any time. Whistleblower protection is a major exception to this general rule.
California’s whistleblower laws protect employees who refuse to participate in illegal activities and those who report information about potential illegal activity. For whistleblower protection to apply, the report must be made to one of the following:
- A government agency;
- A law enforcement agency;
- A person who has the authority to investigate or correct the violation;
- The state attorney general’s Whistleblower Hotline; or, in some jurisdictions,
- The employee’s supervisor.
Importantly, the whistleblower does not have to be right about whether or not a violation actually occurred, as long as she had a reasonable belief of a violation when her report was made.
Once a report of potential wrongdoing is made, an employer may not retaliate against the employee. This means that the employer cannot treat the employee differently because she made a report of suspected illegal activity.
California law also provides that employers cannot make policies that prohibit employees from making good faith reports of legal violations. Whistleblower protection is portable, meaning it follows employees who change jobs. In other words, a new employer may not retaliate against an employee who made a whistleblower report against a prior employer.
In addition to the general whistleblower law, some California laws specifically provide employment protections to those who make reports under them. One example is a statutory protection for medical personnel who makes a good faith report of a suspected patient care violation.
If you have reasonable cause to believe that your employer has committed a legal, safety, or health violation, you may call the attorney general’s Whistleblower Hotline at (800) 952-5225. If you have suffered retaliation as a whistleblower, you may wish to consult with an experienced discrimination lawyer in San Francisco about whether you should file a lawsuit. Contact us today.
Sacramento, CA 95821