An employee should be able to report labor code and unpaid wage violations. However, some employers may retaliate against an employee who reports wage and hour violations or cooperates in a workplace discrimination investigation. California whistleblower protection laws provide protections to workers who report labor code violations. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against workers who report employers who are not following California labor laws.
The employment attorneys at Sirmabekian Law Firm help employees get justice when their employer threatens retaliation for reporting labor law violations. We know the tactics that employers try to use to punish an employee who wants to make a wage and hour violation claim or back up another employee who reports labor violations. We will use our experience and the law to reinstate your position or get compensation for the unlawful retaliation.
To better understand what it means and what you can do about your employer’s retaliation for reporting labor code violations in Los Angeles, we answer some of the most common questions our clients have, including:
- What are California whistleblower protection laws?
- What are types of employer retaliation?
- Are workers protected when supporting another employee's unpaid wages claim?
- What damages can you recover if you were wrongfully retaliated against by an employer?
- Do you need an employment attorney to represent you in a workplace retaliation claim in Los Angeles?
This page provides an overview of whistleblower and illegal retaliation laws in California and links pages to relevant employment law topics. If you still have questions after reviewing these pages, contact our office to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
There are a few primary whistleblower protection laws in California that prohibit retaliation against employees for:
- General Labor Violation Reporting: California Labor Code § 1102.5
- Wage, Hour, and Labor Law Violation Reporting: California Labor Code § 98.6
- Workplace Safety Violation Reporting: California Labor Code § 6310
CALIFORNIA LABOR CODE § 1102.5 WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTIONS
Under California Labor Code § 1102.5, employers shall not make or enforce any policy that prevents an employee from disclosing information to law enforcement agencies or the government or for investigating or correcting any violation or noncompliance, which the employee believes is a violation of a state, federal, or local rule, regulation, or the law.
Employers cannot retaliate against any employee for disclosing information related to such an investigation, hearing, or inquiry. Similarly, an employee can refuse to participate in any activity that would violate state or federal law or regulation.
CALIFORNIA LABOR CODE § 98.6 WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTIONS
Under California Labor Code § 98.6, an individual should not discharge employees, or retaliate, discriminate and take adverse action against the applicant for employment or employees in any manner because the applicant or employee has engaged in the conduct of any form. This includes:
- Wage and hour violations,
- Minimum wage violations,
- Overtime violations, and
- Meal and rest break violations.
CALIFORNIA LABOR CODE § 6310 WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTIONS
Under California Labor Code § 6310, no person shall discharge or discriminate against an employee for making a complaint related to employee safety or health, participating in an occupational health and safety committee, or reporting a work-related injury, illness, or fatality.
Often, an employer retaliates unlawfully by wrongful termination. However, any action that is adverse may be unlawful retaliation, including giving employees fewer hours, demotion, or spreading lies and rumors about the employee in the workplace. Examples of employer retaliation may include:
- Reducing the employee’s hours or pay,
- Suspension or demotion,
- Failure to promote an employee,
- Failure to give the employee a bonus,
- Changing the employee to a less desirable shift or job,
- Threatening to call immigration on the employee or employee’s family member,
- Failure to provide access for training opportunities,
- Reduced benefits,
- Encouraging other employees to harass the whistleblower,
- Threatening legal action against the employee, or
- Threatening physical harm against the employee.
It is not necessarily simple to determine if the employer is retaliating against an employee for reporting labor code violations. Employment for most jobs in California is considered “at-will.” This means an employer can fire an employee for no reason at all. However, employers cannot fire or retaliate against an employee for an unlawful reason, like based on discrimination or reporting illegal activity.
There may be no direct evidence that the employer made a job worse or fired an employee because of a labor law violation. For example, an employer may not write down a note in the worker’s file that the employee was “fired because the employee reported an unpaid wage violation.” However, your attorney can demonstrate the employer’s unlawful intent, based on the circumstances. If your employer retaliated against you or another co-worker for reporting labor law violations, you may have a whistleblower retaliation claim.
Whistleblower protections generally extend to people who cooperate with inquiries or investigations. This includes disclosing information to a government agency, or person with authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or non-compliance. The protections also cover testifying before a public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry.
For example, Michael and Jorge work at a warehouse in San Pedro. Jorge files a wage and hour complaint because the employer was not paying overtime, as required by law. The Labor Commission investigates the complaint and talks to Michael. Michael cooperates in the investigation and gives evidence that support’s Jorge’s claim. If the employer fires Michael for participating in the investigation, Michael may have a whistleblower claim even though it was Jorge who reported the violations.
An employer may be liable for whistleblower violations to the employee. If an individual was refused employment, not selected for training, or otherwise discriminated against in terms and conditions of an offer of employment because of protected actions may be entitled to employment and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits.
An employer retaliates against an employee for reporting wage and hour violations may be liable for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per employee for each violation. The civil penalty is to be awarded to the employees who suffered the violation.
In many cases, an employer who retaliates against an employee may have done the same thing to other employees. When multiple employees have been adversely impacted because of wage and hour violation reporting, the employees may be able to file a class-action lawsuit against the employer
Workers may not feel comfortable reporting wage and hour violations, workplace safety issues, or possible illegal activity by the employer. Even if the employee knows reporting the problem is the right thing to do, the employee may not want to risk their job and income. However, reporting workplace violations may not only help the employee, but it can also help other employees who are negatively impacted by the employer’s illegal activities.
Workers who report labor law violations are protected against adverse treatment and retaliation by the employer. If your employer fired you or retaliated against you for reporting unpaid wages or other labor code violations, you may have a whistleblower retaliation claim. Filing a whistleblower retaliation complaint may result in compensation for lost benefits, lost income, and provide reinstatement to the job.
If you are not sure what to do about an employer who retaliated against you for reporting labor code violations, talk to an experienced employment attorney. A Los Angeles labor law attorney will have the insight, knowledge, and skills to let you know your rights and take the appropriate steps to make sure you are protected and compensated for doing the right thing.
Contact Sirmabekian Law Firm online or at 818-473-5003 to schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney who has the skills and experience to help make sure you get the best outcome for your whistleblower claim. An initial consultation will not cost you anything and you will be able to get an idea about your rights and options to move forward.
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