It takes real courage to report illegal conduct by one’s employer. Workers fear that if they report their employer, they will suffer retaliation, and even lose their job. Recognizing this reality, the law encourages employees to speak out by making it unlawful to retaliate against those who report certain illegal activity to government and law enforcement agencies. The law similarly prohibits retaliation against employees who refuse to participate in certain illegal conduct.
Several state and federal laws protect “whistleblowers” who report what they reasonably believe to be illegal conduct that endangers public safety, defrauds the government, or otherwise injures the general public. This includes environmental laws, corporate fraud, and government regulation of certain industries, such as nuclear power, airlines, and trucking. California law protects health care employees who report concerns about quality of medical care to an accrediting agency or other governmental entity. The myriad of whistleblower laws prohibit employers from, for example, transferring an employee because she reported unsafe working conductions to OSHA, demoting an employee because he reported violations federal securities law to the SEC, or terminating an employee because he reported illegal dumping of toxic chemicals to the EPA.
Employees should be aware, however, that the law does not protect all reports of unlawful activity. For example, many laws do not protect employees who only report legal violations to their employers, but rather, require employees to report the violation to a government or law enforcement agency. Other laws require employees to complain to a specific government agency. Still other laws require employees to complain internally about illegal conduct before contacting the government in order to give the employer the opportunity to correct the misconduct.
Whistleblower laws are complex and ever-changing. Navigating the legal landscape in this area requires an exhaustive understanding of several state and federal laws. If you believe you may have been discriminated or retaliated against, or terminated because you reported what you believe to be unlawful conduct, you need employment law specialists on your side. Sarnoff +Sarnoff is committed to advancing employee rights and bringing to justice any employer that engages in, encourages, or fails to prevent discrimination or retaliation in the workplace. Give us a call at (213) 536-4236, email us at email@example.com, or fill out our case evaluation form to find out whether your rights have been violated and if we can help.