California amends labor codes in favor of whistleblowers

Whistleblower protections allow employees the freedom of action to report on unfair or illegal happenings in their company since doing so may jeopardize their employment under a spurned employer. From sexual harassment in the workplace to environment-threatening waste practices, it is vital to give these people a voice to expose wrongdoing. But if they do the right thing and their employer still terminates them, is there anything they can do? 

As the Whistleblower News Network reports, California recently approved amendments that extend and assist whistleblower retaliation. 

The current legislation

Labor codes help workers file retaliation claims with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The DLSE investigates these claims and may take actions like mandating an employee’s reinstatement and levying penalties against the employer to discourage further retaliation. 

Under the current legislation, whistleblowers must file a retaliation claim within six months and if they prevail, they may receive back pay, benefits and paid damages. 

The new legislation

In effect on January 1st, 2021, the timeline for a whistleblower’s claim extends out to one year instead of six months and the courts may award attorney fees to the prevailing employee on top of any back pay. 

The Senate Judiciary report explains that the attorney fees payment section of the amendment aims to provide equal access to justice, especially to vulnerable, low-income workers 

The freedom to speak out

Employees only have work rights on paper if they risk their livelihoods when using them. Whistleblowers need protection at the moment they report, throughout the process and after any investigations. No worker deserves to have their rights infringed upon by a retaliatory employer and these enhanced provisions provide more time and security for future whistleblowers.