Workers in Los Angeles who report wrongdoing by their employer are protected by several state laws in California. Some of these laws forbid employers from firing, discharging, or terminating workers because they blew the whistle on the company’s misconduct.
Proving that your discharge was because you were a whistleblower, though, is not always easy. Lots of employers claim that they had other reasons to let someone go, besides the fact that they upset company policy by pointing out that it was illegal.
In this article, our Los Angeles employment lawyers answer some frequently asked questions about the wrongful termination of whistleblowers, including:
- What is a Whistleblower?
- How Does the Law Protect Whistleblowers?
- Qui Tam Laws
- The Sarbanes-Oxley Act
- California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
- Labor Code 98.6
- Labor Code 6310
- Labor Code 1102.5
- California Government Code 8547
- Prohibition Against Terminations That Violate Public Policy
3. What Compensation Can I Recover in a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
In Los Angeles, a whistleblower is anyone who reports suspected illegal activity. Lots of whistleblowers are employees who are reporting wrongdoing – or “blowing the whistle” – on their own employer. Whistleblowers are frequently employees because they have an insider’s knowledge of the workings of a company, and can come into close contact with problematic or outright illegal conduct. In some cases, these workers actively participate in illegal conduct as a part of their job.
For example, a construction worker can become a whistleblower if he notices that the company claims to use materials that are up to code, but shave costs by using weaker materials, instead.
A crucially important aspect of whistleblower law in Los Angeles is that a whistleblower is someone who thinks or reasonably believes that there is misconduct. If they report a violation of the law, an investigation occurs, and it turns out that nothing illegal was going on, they are no less of a whistleblower and will still be protected under the law for making the report.
In Los Angeles, whistleblowers are protected from retaliation and wrongful termination by numerous state laws. Which one applies to your case will depend on the details of the employment violation you think your company is committing.
QUI TAM LAWS
The California False Claims Act allows workers to sue their employers for defrauding the government. Whistleblowers in these cases often come from the healthcare industry and frequently bring forward evidence that healthcare providers are overcharging the government with fraudulent Medicare or Medicaid claims.
If you file a qui tam lawsuit and your employer reacts to your action by firing you, California’s law gives you the grounds to file another lawsuit against your employer – this one for wrongful termination.
THE SARBANES-OXLEY ACT
Workers in publicly traded companies who blow the whistle on securities fraud are protected from employer retaliation, including wrongful termination, by the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
CALIFORNIA’S FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING ACT (FEHA)
The Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, is one of the broadest workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation laws in California. Workers who blow the whistle on their employer’s discrimination or other FEHA violation can be protected from retaliation like a wrongful termination by other provisions in the FEHA.
LABOR CODE 98.6
Under the California Labor Code § 98.6, workers will be protected from their employer’s retaliation or wrongful termination if they decide to report wage or hour violations to the California Labor Commissioner. The same protection will be extended to the whistleblower’s family members, and even to people who blew the whistle on a prior employer and are applying for a new job.
LABOR CODE 6310
California Labor Code § 6310 protects whistleblowers who report occupational safety and workplace hazards to OSHA or California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Retaliating against these whistleblowers can violate this law and subject an employer to a wrongful termination lawsuit.
LABOR CODE 1102.5
Los Angeles whistleblowers who may not fit into any of these categories can still benefit from California’s general whistleblower protection law, found at Labor Code § 1102.5. This statute is not subject matter specific, so Los Angeles workers in all industries benefit from it.
CALIFORNIA GOVERNMENT CODE 8547
Employees who work for the state of California are covered by the California Whistleblower Protection Act, California Government Code § 8547. The protections afforded under this law are broader than those that are afforded to workers who are employed by private companies and corporations. In addition to protecting whistleblowers who report violations of the law, the California Whistleblower Protection Act also protects people who report:
- Violations of executive orders or regulations
- Inefficient or wasteful government conduct
- Conditions that threaten the public’s health or safety
PROHIBITION AGAINST TERMINATIONS THAT VIOLATE PUBLIC POLICY
If an employer fires you in violation of an important public policy, it can be a wrongful termination. One of those important public policies is whistleblowing – firing a whistleblower violates public policy and can be a wrongful termination. Others include firing someone for:
- Refusing to commit a crime
- Exercising one of their legal rights
- Doing something that they were legally required to do
Workers who have blown the whistle on their employer’s misconduct, crimes, or fraud and who have been fired for their actions can file a wrongful termination lawsuit and demand compensation for their professional setbacks. That compensation is meant to make them whole, once again. It includes:
- Wages and benefits lost in the past
- Loss of future wages and benefits
These wages and benefits, though, are subject to the duty to mitigate damages: Fired workers have to take appropriate and reasonable steps to reenter the workforce, rather than let their lost wages accumulate. If they don’t, courts can subtract the income that a fired worker could reasonably have earned if they had taken those steps, drastically undercutting the amount of compensation that can be recovered in a successful lawsuit.
In addition to compensation, wrongfully discharged workers can also demand punitive damages from their former employer for their bad conduct.
Depending on the nature of the claim, whistleblowers may also be entitled to:
- Attorneys’ fees
- Court costs
- Harm to their professional reputation
- Reinstatement to their former position.
CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED WHISTLEBLOWER ATTORNEY IN LOS ANGELES TODAY
As a whistleblower, you have rights. We at Sirmabekian Law Firm, PC are here to uphold those rights. Contact us today to get started on your case.
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