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A refresher on California whistleblower laws

What exactly is a whistleblower and what are their rights? Any employee who reports information regarding employer violations to an authority, or refuses to perform a duty that could be classified as a violation, is considered a whistleblower. Information disclosed can be about a violation of state or federal statutes, violation of state or federal regulations or rules, or reporting an unsafe work environment or practice. Violations may be reported to an authority such as a government agency, a law enforcement agency, a manager or supervisor in authority over you, or an employee who is in a position to investigate or correct a violation or noncompliance. Whistleblower information, such as possible violations in your workplace, can be reported by contacting the California State Attorney General's Whistleblower Hotline at 1-800-952-5225.

Whistleblowers are protected by California Labor Code Section 1102.5. You are protected as a whistleblower from retaliation for disclosing any employer misconduct as described above or for being a prior whistleblower for a former place of employment. Employers also may not make or enforce any rules or policies that in any way prevent an employee from becoming a whistleblower.

If you are a whistleblower and have been retaliated against in any way, you should seek legal representation. Retaliation could involve things such as being demoted or fired, having to work in a hostile environment, or being passed over for promotions. It is against the California Labor Code, and you may be reinstated to your employment and/or paid compensation for lost wages or benefits.

Source: State of California Department of Industrial Relations, "Whistleblowers Are Protected," accessed Feb. 17, 2016

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