You know the difference between right and wrong. It is something inside of you and something you try to instill in your friend, family, and children. Sometimes it’s easy to do the right thing, like pointing that a cashier gave you too much change. But you also know that doing the right thing can be really hard—with very real consequences. An example of this is when you see your employer break the law, or when your employer asks you to break the law. This is a huge ethical dilemma as it challenges your sense of right and wrong, while also putting your job, livelihood, and reputation on the line.
California Labor Code Section 1102.5 addresses California employers when it comes to protecting whistleblowers. A “whistleblower” is a person who has a reasonable belief that their employer is violating state or federal laws, or is asking them to violate the law, and reports it to the authorities. Whistleblowers are protected by the law, but in our experience, that doesn’t stop employers from engaging in misconduct. In reality, employers likely know that they are breaking the law and don’t like that they got caught. That is why it is important to understand the law when it comes to whistleblowing and retaliation.
An Employer Cannot Prevent Whistleblowing
The labor code prohibits an employer from creating any rule, regulation, or policy “preventing an employee from disclosing information” to law enforcement, a governmental agency, a supervisor, or an authorized investigator. It also includes rules preventing an employee from testifying at a hearing or inquiry regarding violations of the law. This encompasses providing information to allow the relevant investigating authority “to investigate, discover, or correct” a violation or noncompliance.
An Employer Cannot Retaliate Against a Whistleblower
The labor code also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee based on the fact that they disclosed information relating to a violation of the law or testified in a hearing or inquiry regarding unlawful acts. It also prohibits retaliation based on a belief that the employee disclosed information to a law enforcement agency, government agency, supervisor, or authorized investigator.
This law protects employees who have “reasonable cause” to believe that the information discloses a violation of local, state, or federal laws and regulations. Disclosure does not need to be part of the employee’s official duties.
An Employer Cannot Compel You to Break the Law
Finally, if an employer asks an employee to engage in unlawful conduct or activities, and the employee refuses to participate, then employers are prohibited from retaliation against that employee for saying no. No employer can compel an employee to engage in illegal activity, much less punish an employee who refuses.
Beyond criminal liability, loss of licenses, and the public relations hit, an employer can be held civilly liable for each violation of these whistleblower protections.
Contact Moss Bollinger
If your employer is asking you to break the law, or is retaliating against you for reporting unlawful conduct, you need help. Moss Bollinger is an employee’ rights law firm. For years, we have prided ourselves in bringing the weight of the law on to abusive employers. We can force your employer to take you seriously and fight for your rights. Call Moss Bollinger today to determine whether you have a claim. We work on a contingency basis, and do not get paid unless you do. Call us at (866) 535-2994 for a free consultation or contact us online.