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  • By: Moss Bollinger
  • Published: March 9, 2023
A judge's gavel and whistle on a black background - Moss Bollinger LLP

Whistleblower lawsuits are essential for California employees to expose and hold their employers accountable for illegal or unethical behavior. However, these lawsuits can also raise concerns about confidentiality and privacy. In California, whistleblower laws provide some protections for employees who file suit, but the extent of these protections can vary depending on the circumstances.

California whistleblower laws protect employees who report state or federal law violations or refuse to participate in illegal or unethical behavior. These laws also prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who engage in these protected activities. Retaliation can take many forms, including termination, demotion, harassment, or other adverse actions.

When an employee files a whistleblower lawsuit, they may be required to disclose certain information about the alleged misconduct, including the identities of witnesses and other evidence. This information can be sensitive and potentially damaging to both the employer and the employees involved. Due to the sensitive nature of info connected to many whistleblower lawsuits, California law has some confidentiality protections. If a company does not know who reported the violation or provided the authorities with the damaging information, they can’t retaliate against them.

Legal Protections For California Whistleblowers:

False Claims Act: Requires the original whistleblower lawsuit alleging violations of the False Claims Act to be filed under “seal,” which means the original complaint is not a public document and the defendant is not served. The complaint remains “sealed” until the United States government completes its investigation. Keeping the complaint confidential throughout the government’s investigation can be extremely helpful in preventing retaliation since the investigation into this type of complaint may take years.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: Enables whistleblowers to file a reward claim confidentially and anonymously.

IRS Whistleblower Law for Tax Evasion, Tax Underpayments, Illegal Offshore Banking, and Money Laundering: Anonymous filings are not legal, but the law requires the IRS to provide whistleblowers with the maximum amount of confidentiality available by law when they file a reward claim. In practice, these confidentiality protections are reasonably thorough.

Inspector General Act/Whistleblower Protection Act: Both laws permit federal workers to file confidential whistleblower disclosures.

Securities and Exchange Act (Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower provision), and Commodity Exchange Act (Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower provision): Both these laws include provisions allowing anonymous, confidential reward claim filings.

Additional Protections When Filing A California Whistleblower Lawsuit:

In addition to these protections, California law also provides for other types of confidentiality orders, which can limit the disclosure of sensitive information during the litigation process. For example, a court may issue a protective order that prohibits the disclosure of certain documents or testimony or limits the disclosure to certain parties or under certain conditions.

However, these protections are not absolute, and there are limitations to the confidentiality that can be maintained in whistleblower lawsuits.

If you are filing a California whistleblower lawsuit and you are worried about confidentiality, contact Moss Bollinger, Sherman Oaks, California employment law attorney. He’s dedicated to protecting and asserting the rights of his clients. Call (310) 982-2291 today for a free consultation, or contact us online.

Moss Bollinger LLP - Sherman Oaks, CA

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