When public and private employers attempt to skirt the law for personal gain or company profit, there’s always the risk of wide and far-reaching consequences for the public at large. Such can be the case when a company dumps an illegal amount of waste into a nearby waterway, or a police department that fails reprimand officers for illegal conduct.
When situations like these occur, there may be one or more people who know something about what’s going on and wish to speak up about it. Almost any time someone wishes to speak up about unlawful behavior going on at their place of work, they may be considered a whistleblower.
Because these people have critical claims about unlawful activity their employers may be engaged, such employers are inherently inclined to keep them silent. Whether or not someone has already reported the unlawful activity, any adverse action taken against them may be considered whistleblower retaliation.
What Can Be Reported?
Whistleblowers can report waste, fraud, violations of law, or other health and safety threats. Because most problems a whistleblower would report may involve illegal activity, it’s worth focusing on what that entails.
Illegal activity is just what it seems: any behavior that violates the law. That means employers – public or private – that engage in discrimination, overtime pay violations, fraudulent activity, or even retaliation itself cannot retaliate against an employee for whistleblowing such behavior.
If you are unsure if you would be – or should have been – protected for reporting something at work, consult with an employment law attorney like ours at Limonjyan Law Group for help.
Who Can Be a Whistleblower?
Almost anyone can be a whistleblower, but there are several different laws at the federal and state levels that specifically protect federal and state employees. The Federal Whistleblower Protection Act and California Whistleblower Protection Act are key in affording these protections for California’s public employees. In a nutshell, these laws primarily concern themselves with protecting these public employees against retaliation for reporting waste, fraud, violations of law, or other health and safety threats.
Again, private employees may also be considered whistleblowers when they speak up about violations of employment law or other laws. Under no circumstances, however, should an employee who is voicing concern about illegal activity – whether it is or is not really taking place – experience retaliation for merely reporting what they saw or heard.
What Is Retaliation?
While this may be a topic to expand upon in a future post, we did discuss how employees can protect themselves from workplace retaliation in a previous entry. To put things simply, retaliation is any adverse action taken against you and your interests at work as a punishment for something you did.
In the context of employment law, retaliation almost always refers to such actions as responses for engaging in a legally protected activity, like reporting discrimination or a violation of health and safety regulations.
Retaliation can be as overt as getting fired or as subtle as harsher treatment from your supervisors in an attempt to make you quit. When done as a consequence of your engagement in a lawful and protected activity, retaliation can merit grounds for a lawsuit where you can seek fair and just compensation.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
Whistleblowers enjoy wide protections under state and federal laws, but Limonjyan Law Group appreciates that you need the added support of a qualified attorney to help you assert those rights. We are an employment law firm that can help you move forward with your claim and seek fair and just compensation when your employer violated your rights.
For more information about how we may be able to assist you, reach out to us online or by calling (213) 377-6707 for legal support.