A Primer on California Whistleblower Protections

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Merriam Webster's dictionary defines a whistleblower as "one who reveals something covert or who informs against another." This definition perfectly describes an insider informant who, at great risk to him or herself, tells others - even higher-ups in the same company or agency - about illegal or improper activities taking place there.

California Labor Code Section 1102.5 is expansive. It protects employees against retaliation for even internal whistleblowing. An employee need not report the activity to the government or an outside agency.

Remember too that California Labor Code Section 1102.5 makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for refusing to participate in any activity that would result in a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation or noncompliance.

State and federal laws put a premium on the information provided by whistleblowers. In order to encourage the free flow of information, statutes, regulations and policies exist to protect the livelihood of those who take the ethical high road and bring illicit activities to light.

California state laws specifically protect informants in several industries, including those working in:

  • Securities
  • Health care
  • State agencies
  • Educational institutions

What Sorts of Protections Are Offered to Whistleblowers?

Generally, all whistleblower protections are designed to both encourage the free flow of communication and prevent retaliation against the informant. In California, the Whistleblower Protection Act (Government Code § 8547 and following) prevents retaliation against whistleblowers in the form of:

  • Threats
  • Coercion
  • Commands to perform improper activity
  • Intimidation
  • Disciplinary action
  • Termination
  • Refusal to hire
  • Reassignment to lower-status position or one of lower pay
  • Refusal to promote
  • Denial of merit increases/raises
  • Involuntary transfers to new locations

If you want to file (or have already filed) a whistleblower complaint by following internal complaint procedures or reporting to a state agency, seek the counsel of an attorney experienced in enforcing the protections offered to whistleblowers under California law. Your good deeds should not be used against you - having an attorney at your side is the best way to protect your rights while you do the right thing by speaking out.