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New California whistleblower laws expand, strengthen protections

Next year looks to be a good one for California whistleblowers. Thanks to some new laws signed by Governor Jerry Brown, not only will whistleblower protections be expanded, but so will the number of people who can qualify for them.

Beginning on Jan. 1, employers will no longer be allowed to retaliate against people who work for them if they report suspected wrongdoing to the company, or if the company believes the employee may report illegal actions. Protections for immigrants who report illegal activity and an employer's failure to abide by employment and other laws will also be expanded.

The new laws expand the current protection against retaliation that only applies to employees who report the activity to outside authorities. Further, if a company does engage in such retaliation, an employer could be looking at a fine of as much as $10,000 for each violation, in addition to other sanctions.

The new laws also allow more people to qualify for whistleblower protections. For example, employees will not be able to retaliate against those whose job involves reporting improper activity, like compliance officers.

California employment law attorneys have said that businesses should update and strengthen their compliance programs to ensure that they are following the new laws. One attorney told The Wall Street Journal that these new California whistleblower laws should be a key focus of management training this year so that managers understand what qualifies as retaliation.

No matter how much employment laws are strengthened, there will always be individual managers who violate them, either knowingly or unknowingly. Employees who believe they suffered retaliation for reporting wrongdoing in their workplace can and should seek legal assistance to help ensure that their employer is held accountable, and that they receive the compensation to which they are entitled.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "California To Ring in 2014 With New Whistleblower Laws" Rachel Louise Ensign, Dec. 24, 2013

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