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Sacramento Whistleblower Attorneys

 

Tower Legal Group is dedicated to representing employees in Whistleblower Cases in the workplace in California.

WHAT IS A WHISTLEBLOWER?

Whistleblowers are employees who report illegal activity, or conduct which the employee reasonably believes violates the a state or federal law, statute, or regulation, occurring in the workplace.  They decide it needs to be stopped and by reporting this conduct or illegal activity, they become whistleblowers.  A whistleblower is also an employee who refuses to participate in illegal activities in the workplace.  Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF WHEN VOICING CONCERNS

Under most whistleblower statutes, an employee who “blows the whistle” on potential violations by their employer must:

  • Believe, in good faith, that the employer is not in compliance with the law;
  • Bring their concerns either directly to their employer or to a government agency

Under these circumstances, your employer is prohibited from firing or otherwise punishing you for voicing these concerns, even if it turns out there was no legal violation. If you believe you have been retaliated against for such a complaint, it is important to report the retaliation and/or file a retaliation complaint as soon as possible.

WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF WHISTLEBLOWING?

  • Disclosing a good faith belief that the employer is not in compliance with a state or federal law to a supervisor someone with authority to investigate, discover or correct the violation
  • Reporting a co-worker being sexually harassed or subjected to discrimination
  • Refusing to participate in an activity that would violate state or federal law
  • Making a complaint to a government agency (e.g. OSHA, DFEH, EEOC) or law enforcement regarding suspected violations of state or federal laws in the workplace

 

WHAT CALIFORNIA LAWS PROTECT WHISTLEBLOWERS?

In California, there are several laws that protect whistleblowers from retaliation, the majority of which are embodied in the Government Code, Labor Code and Health and Safety Code.  Below are a few examples of laws that protect whistleblowers from retaliation:

 

Government Code §12940 – FEHA. Prohibits retaliation when an employee opposes an unlawful employment practice prohibited by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).  Examples are reporting any form of discrimination or harassment on the basis of 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 veteran or military status of any person.

Example:

In Yanowitz v L’Oreal (2005) 36 Cal. 4th 1028, Ms. Yanowitz refused to fire a female co-worker who did not meet a male executive’s standards for sexual attractiveness.   Ms. Yanowitz reasonably believed the male executive’s conduct amounted to sexual harassment of her female co-worker in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).  Ms. Yanowitz’s opposed the sexual harassment by refusing to fire the female employee, which was a protected activity under the FEHA.  Ms. Yanowitz was terminated for refusing to follow the male executive’s orders.  Ms. Yanowitz sued her employer for retaliation and won.  The case resolved in a confidential settlement.

Labor Code § 1102.5.  This law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for disclosing information to the employer or anyone with authority to investigate, including law enforcement or a government agency, if the employee reasonably believes the information discloses a violation or noncompliance of law.

Example:

In Williams v. Wyndham Vacation Ownership, the Plaintiff Williams observed her employer, Wyndham, purportedly training its employees to intentionally mislead customers about the terms of their time share contracts to increase sale.  In addition, Williams reported that Wyndham targeted their practices at senior citizens because they were perceived as vulnerable.  When Plaintiff Williams reported the conduct as she believed this to be unlawful, she was allegedly told: “keep your mouth shut or you will be fired”.  Williams was then allegedly terminated for opposing fraudulent sales practices.  Plaintiff Williams brought a whistleblower suit in violation of Labor Code 1102.5.  The jury in San Francisco County ultimately awarded Plaintiff Williams $19,999,999.98.  Only $0.02 cents shy of $20 million dollars.

Labor Code § 1197.5(k) – Equal Pay Act.  Employees are protected from retaliation if they disclose their own wages, discuss the wages of others, inquire about another employee’s wages, and if they take any action to exercise their rights under Section 1197.5 or aid or encourage other employees to exercise rights under Section 1197.5.   California prohibits an employer from paying its employees less than employees of the opposite sex, or of another race, or of another ethnicity for substantially similar work. The provisions, protections, procedures, and remedies relating to race- or ethnicity-based claims are identical to the ones relating to sex. In addition, employers are prohibited from using prior salary to justify any sex-, race-, or ethnicity-based pay difference.

Labor Code 6310 & 6311 – Health and Safety.  No employer may discriminate against an employee for making any oral or written complaint to a government agency with jurisdiction over employee safety or health, for instituting or testifying in any employee health or safety proceeding, or for exercising other rights relating to employee safety or health. Protected activity also includes reporting a work-related fatality, injury, or illness, requesting access to occupational injury or illness reports and records, and exercising any rights protected by the federal OSHA.  Employer cannot terminate an employee for refusing to perform work in violation of occupational health or safety standards, where the violation would create a “real or apparent hazard” to an employee

Health and Safety Code 1278.5.  This section prohibits a health facility from retaliating against any of its employees for complaining about the quality of care or services provided by the facility. The statute further provides that an employee who has been improperly retaliated against “shall be entitled to reinstatement, reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the acts of the employer, and the legal costs associated with pursuing the case, or to any remedy deemed warranted by the court pursuant to this chapter or any other applicable provision of statutory or common law.”

Employees are always encouraged to submit complaints (or concerns) in writing.  The mere act of reporting these suspected violations protects the employee as a whistleblower and an employee cannot be retaliated against for reporting or opposing these practices.  If you have found yourself in this unfortunate situation, please reach out to us for a Free Confidential, No-Obligation Consultation.

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