California Whistleblower Lawyers
Is there wrongdoing happening at your workplace? Are you afraid that you are going to be retaliated against because of whistleblowing? Our California whistleblower lawyers are here to protect you. Call us today.
Who is a Whistleblower?
Whistleblowers are workers who see their workplace partake in illegal or fraudulent activity. They decide it needs to be stopped. In reporting this activity, they become whistleblowers.
For hundreds of years, there have been laws that protect whistleblowers. California protects these employees after they blow the whistle on their employers.
There are many different things that could be considered whistleblower cases. Some of these cases include:
- Insurance fraud
- IRS cases
- Bank cases
- Medicare fraud
- And more
Our California whistleblower lawyers can help you get the information you need to get started.
What Does It Mean to Be a Whistleblower?
You may be considered a whistleblower if you think there is some illegal activity or wrongdoing at work and you take this information to EEOC.
People usually whistleblow when their managers or coworkers act in a way that is suspicious but sometimes it will be about their customers, third parties, etc. The law lets people bring forward whistleblower claims about what they think is illegal activity in the workplace regardless if it is the employer who signs their check or the third party workers who they don’t know by name.
Is a Complaint the Same as Whistleblowing?
When you make a complaint, it is typically about something that affects you on a personal level. That might be a complaint about discrimination or harassment you faced from a coworker. A complaint like that would be something you do for your personal betterment. However, whistleblowing is not usually something that impacts you as an individual only. Whistleblowers are people who make a larger scale problem known.
Am I Provided Protection by Law?
In 1996 the Employment Rights Act was passed. It made it so that if someone blew the whistle on a company, they are protected from their employer from being fired or retaliated against. You are given this right the second you are hired by a company. You don’t have to worry about being a long-standing employee in order to be protected by this act. You can receive compensation if you are retaliated against the same way you can be compensated for a discrimination claim.
You are also protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998. This act exists to protect you if you make a disclosure of information that would be for public interest and then were made to be a victim or were fired.
How is Disclosure Qualified?
There are things you can and cannot blow the whistle about in order to be protected. You are entitled to blow the whistle if what you have observed is going to provide information that will be in public interest. You aren’t protected if the information is minor, trivial, or harmless.
If you are to blow the whistle in a protected manner, it should be about:
- crimes taking place
- miscarriage of justice in your workplace
- activity you see that is creating a danger to health and safety
- activity you see that is creating damage to the environment
- activity you see that is against the law or breaks regulation
You can discuss this with an experienced California whistleblower lawyer to determine what is or is not in the public interest to blow the whistle on.
How an Experienced Attorney Can Help
A lawyer can help you through your case every step of the way. There are a lot of complexities to a claim that you’re likely unfamiliar with. Your lawyer can help you navigate this process.
Your lawyer representing your claim will act in a similar manner to a lawyer who took on any other type of employment law claim. They will provide you with the following services:
- They will investigate your claims and determine whether or not you have enough reason to continue with your claim based on evidence.
- Your lawyer will file your complaint with the right people to get your claim started.
- From there they will make sure that you are doing everything you can to maximize the outcomes of your claim.
- Your lawyer will represent you to any government officials who are looking into your claim.
Lastly, if you find that you are being retaliated against, your lawyer will protect you.
If there is not a settlement reached then, your lawyer will open a lawsuit for you.
Frequently Asked Whistleblower Questions
How do I know if 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.
Will my identity be confidential if I file a whistleblower claim?
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.
How do I choose the right attorney for my whistleblower case?
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.
What should I do if I believe I have 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.
Why is it important to hire an attorney for a whistleblower lawsuit?
As an attorney of 20 years, I think one of the most difficult areas of the law and employment and labor is the area that is commonly referred to as whistleblower litigation. In California there are various laws that protect whistleblowers. Some of the laws are very unique and cover specific conduct or specific employers. You might have a law that protects only hospital workers or people sitting in an education setting, or you might have a law that protects all employees in the state of California. Then you have laws that cover specific conduct only.
California has a lot of protection for employees. In order to assist you in identifying even what claims to bring, it’s important that you identify the conduct that you complained about, who you complained about it to, and what type of employer you have. In order to do that, I would encourage you to talk to an attorney that has expertise in labor and employment. It’s important that you find an attorney who has litigated whistleblower cases and has tried whistleblower cases. It’s one thing to file a claim under a whistleblower, and it’s another to also litigate it, but it’s completely different to actually try a whistleblower lawsuit. Whistleblower litigation in California has unique jury instructions, and it’s important for the attorneys to be aware of that throughout the entire litigation.
If you believe that you’ve been subject to unlawful conduct related to whistleblowing, either because you went to a governmental agency or you complained internally about what you believe is unlawful or unsafe conduct, I’d encourage you to reach out to an attorney that has expertise in that area. Always feel free to give me a call here at the office if you have any questions regarding why you might want to hire an attorney or what types of claims you might have. Thanks.
What is the statute of limitations for a whistleblower case in California?
As an employment firm in Southern California, we routinely bring what are often referred to as whistleblower claims. There’s various statutes that protect California employees under California law for blowing the whistle. The two main ones are Labor Code §1102.5 and another claim under Labor Code §6310. Both of those claims have statutes of limitations. Depending on the type of remedies that you’re seeking, those claims will run from either one year to three years.
I say it’s extremely important that if you believe you’ve been subjected to retaliation, you take steps to make sure that your claims are preserved. One way of doing that is making a timely claim within the statute of limitations, which one should always assume is well within a year. It’s also important to find an attorney to take steps to inform the employer that there may be a potential claim and not to destroy the evidence. It’s important to find a firm that will send a letter early to the employer, well before the lawsuit is ever filed, to say, “Listen, we represent this employee. These are the types of claims that we may bring. We’re making a demand that evidence is preserved, including emails, video, paper, all types of evidence,” to make sure that once you finally start to litigate the case, all the evidence will be there.
While the statute of limitations might be longer than a year, or they might be a year depending on the statute, it’s important that, if you’ve been subjected to unlawful conduct, you act quickly to make sure that the evidence is there and preserved for when the lawsuit is ultimately filed. If you have any questions as to whether or not you have a claim, and if time has passed and you’re concerned that too much time has passed, it’s important that you quickly call an attorney. If I can walk you through that, please feel free to give me a call and we can discuss those options.
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