Were you fired or retaliated against for reporting wrongdoing at your workplace? Check out these 4 whistleblower tips, then call our California attorneys.
Do I Have a Whistleblower Case?
I’m proud of the fact that our firm is associated with some of the landmark cases in California law regarding whistleblowers. In a recent case, Hawkins v. City of Los Angeles, the court of appeals affirmed a judgment on behalf of two of our clients, Todd Hawkins and Hyung Kim, who worked for the city of Los Angeles and who blew the whistle to what they believe was unlawful conduct. For blowing the whistle, they were terminated. We litigated the case for over a year, then ultimately went to a jury trial in the city of Los Angeles, and the jury found for our clients.
As an attorney practicing employment law in California, we have the benefit of being able to represent employees under various statutory frameworks, sometimes multiple statutory frameworks. California law protects employees from raising issues of what they believe is unlawful conduct and unsafe conduct. California law protects employees from going to governmental agencies and what we’d call “blow the whistle,” to say that the employee is being subjected to conduct that they believe is unlawful or that the employer is engaged in conduct that is unlawful. California law protects not only blowing the whistle externally to a governmental agency, but also anyone complaining internally. If you complain to somebody within the company about what conduct you believe is unlawful, the statute is going to protect you, as long as you complain to somebody with the company that has the power to investigate those claims. Understand that those laws are there to protect an employee because an employer’s reaction to you pointing out conduct that you believe is unlawful is typically swift and is very damaging.
A lot of times, once the employer realizes that what you’re complaining about is unlawful conduct, employees are subjected to retaliation, sometimes up to and including termination. If you have concerns that your employer is engaging in unlawful conduct, whether that unlawful conduct is a violation of federal, state, or local law, or if you believe that you’re being subjected to conduct that you feel is a safety hazard, either for yourself or the general public, it’s important for you to understand what the next step should be. If you’ve been retaliated against for making complaints of unlawful conduct or unsafe conduct, understand that you have rights. It’s important that you find a firm that can identify what rights you have, what agencies you need to go to prior to filing a lawsuit, and what those timelines are. If I can answer any of those questions, please feel free to give us a call here at the firm.
We do a lot of cases involving what’s called whistleblower lawsuits. Those whistleblower lawsuits typically are employees that complain about either unlawful conduct – based on a federal, state, or local law – or unsafe conduct, where the employer is engaging in conduct that’s either unsafe to the employee or unsafe to the general public. Sometimes those complaints are known. Sometimes they’re written complaints, and sometimes those employees that make the written complaints put their name on it. Sometimes there are written or electronic complaints in which they’re anonymous. Both types of complaints are protected under California law.
With a written complaint, it’s a little bit easier because the employer knows who made the complaint. With an anonymous complaint, for the most part, you can still show that you were retaliated against because the employer believed you made the anonymous complaint. If an employer retaliated against you, either because they know you made a complaint, either internally or externally, or they believe you made an anonymous complaint, either internally or externally, it’s important for you to understand that you have the right not to be retaliated against.
I should also say that sometimes it doesn’t actually require an actual complaint. It could be an actual opposition or refusal to go along with what you believe is an unlawful scheme. You basically throw up your hands and say, “I’m not going to do that. It’s unsafe,” or “I’m not going to do that; it’s unlawful.” You actually don’t ever complain to a governmental agency or you don’t ever complain to HR or somebody that has the ability to investigate it; you simply say you’re not going to be a part of it.
While the laws are at times complex and not easy to understand, it’s important for you to understand that you do have rights under California law. If I can answer any of your questions regarding any issue at work, including whether or not your complaint should be anonymous or whether or not your complaint should have your name on it, or whether or not you’ve been retaliated against for making a complaint or for opposing what you believe is unlawful or unsafe conduct, feel free to give me a call. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Choosing a Whistleblower Attorney
Sometimes I’m asked, “What should I be looking for in an employment lawyer?” California labor and employment law is a unique and complex web of laws. You have various laws that lay over each other and interact with each other. You have issues regarding both union and non-union settings. You have issues with regard to workers’ comp issues. You have issues related to both federal and state law. Employment law in California isn’t easy.
It’s important when you’re looking for a law firm to find a law firm that specializes in employment law where lawyers have dedicated their practice to all things employment. It’s also important to find a firm that is ready and willing and has the resources to go head to head with some of the largest firms in the country and some of the deepest pockets of employers in the country. A firm should have the resources so that, if the employer’s headquarters is in Chicago, then we’re flying to Chicago. If the person that terminated you now lives in Florida, you need to have a law firm that’s willing to go to Florida.
It’s also important for you to find a law firm that has trial experience. It always surprises me how often people refer to themselves as civil litigators or trial attorneys when, truth be told, they’ve actually never argued in front of a jury. When you hire an attorney, it’s important to ask that attorney if they actually have trial experience because you might hire a firm not knowing whether or not they’ve got trial experience. The problem is the defense attorney knows whether or not your attorney has ever tried a case. The insurance carrier knows whether or not your attorney has ever tried a case.
When you’re looking at hiring a firm, it’s important that you find somebody that has the expertise in labor and employment law, that has the resources to fight for you, and that ultimately knows how to try a case. If I can answer any of those questions as to those three factors or any other factors in deciding what law firm you should take, I’m more than happy to discuss any of those factors. Thanks.
Filing a Whistleblower Claim
I often talk to potential clients about the fact that they believe they’ve been subjected to retaliation for what they refer to as whistleblowing. Either they went to a governmental agency, complained internally, or refused to do something that they believe was unlawful or unsafe. As a result, they were being retaliated against. Sometimes those whistleblower claims involve termination. They blew the whistle or they opposed conduct and, before you know it, they lost their job. Sometimes they have been demoted, or sometimes they haven’t been promoted as a result of blowing the whistle.
If you believe that you’ve been subjected to unlawful retaliation for blowing the whistle, it’s important for you to talk to an attorney in a timely manner. The statutes have time limits as to when you can bring the claims, and also require you to go to governmental agencies and do what we call exhaust administrative remedies. As you go through that process, I do think it’s important that you have the advice of counsel to make sure what you’re putting in those documents is unlawful conduct.
Not all conduct that you engage in is protected. Employees have to show that they were retaliated against for complaining about unlawful conduct or refusing to go along with what’s called an unlawful scheme. If I can help you with that process, please just give me a call. I’m happy to discuss any of those issues with you. Thanks.
Are you or a loved one in the process of filing an employment claim in California and have questions about these 4 whistleblower tips? Contact the experienced California employment law attorneys at the Myers Law Group today for a free consultation and case evaluation.
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