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Whistleblower receives $250,000 settlement

A whistleblower who used to work for the California Department of Industrial Relations recently received a $250,000 whistleblower settlement after being fired under suspicious circumstances.

The woman participated in an intra-governmental investigation targeting the woman's boss, a Director at the Department of Industrial Relations. The Department of Industrial Relations, among other things, is charged with administering California's workers' compensation system.

Ultimately, the woman's boss resigned at the end of the investigation. During the investigation, the State Auditor found that the woman's supervisor had violated rules against hiring and advancing close friends and relatives within the civil service.

The Auditor also found that the boss had not been cooperative with the investigation and had tried to obstruct it. Specifically, the Auditor found that the boss had created a culture of fear within her department, as subordinates were very worried about the possibility of retaliation were they to participate in the Auditor's investigation.

At the time, the woman was told that she was being fired for spending too much time at work on personal affairs. Moreover, she was accused of lying when taking sick leave and also misappropriating confidential information.

In addition to the payout, the Department of Industrial Relations also formally withdrew the woman's involuntary termination and allowed her to resign instead.

This case serves as an important reminder that workers have a right to participate in official investigations and to report violations of the law. An employer may not punish a worker from doing so, even under the pretext that the worker shared so-called confidential information imprudently.

California workers who do get terminated or disciplined after participating in an investigation may have legal options available to them. One such option is to file a legal claim alleging wrongful termination.

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