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Understanding California’s Whistleblower Law

Perhaps the best way to protect your business from penalties that accompany a law is to have a clear understanding of the statute. Most business owners know about “whistleblower laws,” and are aware they were enacted to protect employees who report wrongdoing by companies.

California’s whistleblower laws were written so owners of both public and private companies or agencies receive equal treatment. Businesses located throughout San Francisco, San Jose, Silicon Valley and across the state would be well served if an experienced employment law attorney provided managers, supervisors and even officers with a review of California’s whistleblower law.

Currently, a CenturyLink employee in Arizona is claiming she was fired for blowing the whistle on that company’s high-pressure sales culture.

How has the Whistleblower Law Changed?

In 2014, California enacted three additional provisions to its whistleblower law that broadened the protection it offered. While the law exists essentially to protect those who report wrongdoing, it is important that business owners, as well as those who manage day-to-day operations, understand the provisions. In summary, the language added in 2014 includes the following:

  • Protection was expanded to include reporting a suspected violation both internally, to a company manager or supervisor, for example, as well as externally to any public body conducting a hearing or investigation.
  • California law was changed to extend liability for wrongdoing beyond the employer, but to include third-party representatives, such as a contractor acting on behalf of the employer.
  • The third change extended protection to those who report violations even if such activity is not part of their normal or official duties.

If your business, a manager or contract third-party is found to have retaliated against a whistleblower the company is responsible for any or all of the following:

  • Repayment of lost wages,
  • Reinstatement to previous employment status, and
  • In some instances, damages related to a damaged reputation.
What are the Possible Punishments for Retaliation?

Under California’s whistleblower law, retaliation by an individual is considered a misdemeanor and punishable by up to one (1) year in the county jail and/or a $1,000 fine. A corporation found guilty of retaliation could face a maximum fine of $5,000 (in addition to the items listed above).

Seek the Advice of a Knowledgeable Employment Law Attorney.

Even companies that retain inside counsel would benefit by bringing in an experienced employment law attorney to ensure all key personnel understand whistleblower law provisions.

SAC Attorneys LLP delivers a wealth of Employment Law knowledge and experience to clients in San Francisco, San Jose, Silicon Valley and across the state. Ensure you understand the Whistleblower Law in California, call our offices at (408) 436-0789 or visit our website www.sacattorneys.com to schedule a free consultation.

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