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Review of California's whistleblower protections

A Los Angeles resident who reads the news regularly will frequently hear stories about how businesses of all sizes got caught violating either a state or federal law. Oftentimes, it is an employee, aptly named a whistleblower, who reports the violations to the proper authorities and thus gets the ball rolling on an investigation.

Not surprisingly, the State of California wants to protect whistleblowers from adverse action because they serve the important role of keeping the business world and honest and fair place where people can lawfully earn a living.

To review these protections, an employee in this state has the right to report his or her employer's law violations to a government agency or to law enforcement. Likewise, an employee is protected for his or her reports internally, either up the corporate hierarchy or to a designated legal or compliance officer.

Law violations include violations of rules and regulations and local ordinances. Whistleblowers also include employees who report unsafe working conditions.

In addition to those who report wrongdoing, employees who refuse to participate in illegal activity or who choose to cooperate with authorities who have already begun to investigate an employer qualify for whistleblower protections.

An employer may not fire, refuse to hire, punish or otherwise retaliate against a whistleblower, even if the employer discovers that the employee was a whistleblower at a prior workplace.

Likewise, an employer may not make policies that prevents employees from going to the government with information about law violations. This rule would prohibit, for instance, overly broad confidentiality policies.

An employee in the Los Angeles area who feels he or she got fired for speaking up about his or her employer's violations of the law may have a wrongful termination claim. Other legal remedies may be available to employees in different situations.


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