Whistleblowers play a critical role in protecting workers from abuse, unfair workplace policies, and unsafe labor conditions. They spotlight misconduct and corruption in their workplaces, so abusive and dishonest employers are held accountable for their actions.
However, this can put the whistleblower at risk. The practices they bring to light often benefit people higher in the organization who may face legal charges, fines, and sanctions for their actions. These higher-ups may attempt to retaliate against people who inform regulatory agencies about their illegal activities, both to punish the informer and to intimidate others who may consider similar behavior.
California legislators understand the importance of whistleblowing and the risks employees face in doing so. That’s why the state has a variety of whistleblower protection laws in place. Here’s how you can use these laws to protect yourself from retaliation if you need to speak out about your employer’s behavior.
California Whistleblower Protection Laws
There are many reasons someone may need to blow the whistle on a company. California laws include specific protections under statues §1102.5 – 1105. This law specifies that no employer may prevent employees from disclosing violations of state or federal laws, regulations, or public policy. Furthermore, they may not retaliate against employees who are found to have done so.
Retaliation includes behaviors such as:
- Failure to promote on merit
- Threats to report workers to ICE
- Denial of access to professional development or necessary resources
- Wrongful constructive termination, or making the employee’s working conditions so stressful or dangerous that they must leave the position
Suppose an employer takes one of these actions because someone blows the whistle. In that case, the employee can take legal action to pursue back pay and compensation for their losses from retaliatory behavior.
Strategies to Protect Yourself from Retaliation
Whether you’ve already blown the whistle or you’re considering it in the future, you can protect yourself from retaliation. The following strategies can help you reduce or fight against any retaliation your employer may attempt.
- Gather performance evaluations and other proof of your success at work. Employers are permitted to fire, demote, or otherwise take action against a whistleblower if these negative acts aren’t related to their reports. Collect proof of positive evaluations, praise, and successful projects and store it outside of your workplace, so you have evidence that your employer’s behavior was retaliatory, not justified.
- Save copies of all communications with your employer. Similarly, save copies of emails, letters, Slack messages, and other communication somewhere other than your work computer. This ensures you’ll still have access to both positive and negative communication that may prove that you suffered retaliation.
- File an internal complaint. If you believe you’re being retaliated against, file an internal complaint with Human Resources. While this may not stop the adverse action, it creates a paper trail you attempted to resolve the situation.
Blow the Whistle on Misconduct Safely
You may not always be able to prevent your employer from retaliating against you after you do the right thing. In that case, it’s time to work with a qualified whistleblower retaliation attorney. Contact AM+F LLP to discuss your situation and learn about your options. We will help you defend yourself against retaliatory employment actions and fight for the compensation you deserve.