Since our founding, we have represented employees in a wide variety of “retaliation” claims and have defended Companies facing those same claims. California has a strong public policy against retaliation. This public policy is backed by statutes and case law, which provide severe penalties in the form of waiting attorneys’ fees, cost reimbursements, interest and potential punitive damages.

Many clients and potential clients on the employee side mistakenly believe that they have no valid claims because California is an “at will” state. Similarly, many clients and potential clients on the Company side mistakenly believe that they are litigation proof because California is an “at will” state. Both are wrong.

California made a MAJOR change to the statute governing whistleblowers, effective January 1, 2014. Prior to January 1, 2014, statute read:

(a) An employer may not make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy preventing an employee from disclosing information

    to a government or law enforcement agency,

where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation.
(b) An employer may not retaliate against an employee for disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation.
(c) An employer may not retaliate against an employee for refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation

STARTING JANUARY 1, 2014, the statute now reads:

(a) An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy preventing an employee from disclosing information

    to a government or law enforcement agency,to a person with authority over the employee, or to another employee who has authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance

, or from providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.(b) An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not retaliate against an employee for disclosing information, or because the employer believes that the employee disclosed or may disclose information, to a government or law enforcement agency, to a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or for providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.
(c) An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not retaliate against an employee for refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation.

In short, the BEFORE January 1, 2014, the employee had to complain to “to a government or law enforcement agency” to trigger the whistleblower protections. Now, the employee only has to complain “to a person with authority over the employee, or to another employee who has authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance….” This is a MAJOR change, and the impact to employees and employers will be hashed out in the courts.

If you believe that you are a whistleblower and your employer has retaliated against you, or if your Company is facing a whistleblower claim for retaliation, you need to act quickly. Please take advantage of our FREE online case submission below and call us today to start a conversation.



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