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Choosing the Best Attorney
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.
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.
Importance of an Attorney
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.
Statute of Limitations
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.
Are you or a loved one in the process of filing an employment claim in California and have questions about what to expect during a whistleblower claim? Contact the experienced California employment law attorneys at the Myers Law Group today for a free consultation and case evaluation.
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