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Do California laws provide whistleblower protection?

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How would you respond, if you found out your employer was breaking a law? Truthfully, your answer might depend upon how the illegal activity affected you. Some Los Angeles employees are concerned that filing a work complaint, through internal or external channels, creates more trouble than good.

Certainly, it can be tempting for workers not involved directly in a company's wrongdoing, to turn a blind eye to an employer's behavior. Despite whistleblower protections, an employee will often do everything possible to hold onto a job and preserve valuable income. However, hesitant workers may not realize that California law shields whistleblowers from employers' negative responses to justified work complaints.

Let's say you're a salesperson who is encouraged to use illegal tactics to pitch a product. Your employer wants your help to defraud customers. Refusing to participate in an activity you know is unethical or illegal will keep you on the right side of the law, but it might not save your job.

Whistleblower laws protect a person in this situation in more ways than one.

Whistleblower protection means that a California employer cannot not retaliate against you for refusing to take part in an illegal job activity. Laws forbid companies from harassing and, discriminating or retaliating against employees, who report public policy and legal violations or aid in investigations by authorities. New employers also may not retaliate against workers, who've acted as whistleblowers against other companies in the past.

A worker does not have to provide proof a Los Angeles employer is guilty of breaking a law or violating a public policy to be afforded these legal protections. A reasonable suspicion of employer misconduct is the only requirement.

Employers can be held accountable for retaliation against whistleblowers. Companies may be ordered to rehire a worker and compensate victims for wage and benefits' losses and other damages. Employment attorneys can shed light on how the legal process works.

Source: California Department of Industrial Relations, "Whistleblowers Are Protected" Jan. 10, 2015

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