Geonetta & Frucht, LLP
By: Geonetta & Frucht, LLP

Some states do not protect all employees from retaliation. But you have rights whether you are a public or private employee in California. Whistle-blower laws were further strengthened in 2014 with the addition of three other legislations.

These laws are diverse and might be challenging for a lay person to determine the exact ones to use in their circumstances. Experienced San Francisco employment lawyers can advise on the most appropriate legal avenue to use.

Who is a Whistle Blower in California?

The legal definition of a whistle-blower is very specific. And before you pursue such a case, you want to be sure that you were indeed a victim of retaliation. Examples of situations where an employee can exercise their rights include termination coming after:

  • An insurance claims handler’s refusal to accept cases that could exceed the caseload limits in the insurance guidelines.
  • An employee of the city building department refusal to allow city officials to construct a structure without proper permits
  • Refusal by a manager to engage in acts of racial discrimination
  • Refusal by a sales representative to participate in an illegal price-fixing scheme in a gasoline company
  • Refusal by a truck driver to deliver spoilt milk

If your situation is similar to the examples listed above, you might have a case worth pursuing in California. The process begins when you speak to a knowledgeable lawyer who could advise on the next steps to take.

How Do I File a Case Against My Employer?

Before filing a formal complaint about your employer, it is critical to ensure that you have a solid case. You might have to show that:

  • You were fired
  • A protected activity is linked to the employer’s decision to fire you
  • You engaged in a protected activity
  • The employee knew or suspected your engagement in a protected activity

If the events align with the above elements, you could be covered by the whistle-blower protection laws. Speak to a knowledgeable San Francisco whistle-blower protection attorney to discuss the circumstances that led to the adverse action.

Do I Have Rights Under Federal Law?

The federal law has various provisions that protect whistle-blowers. A seasoned San Francisco whistle-blower protection attorney can listen to the details of your case and advise on the most appropriate provision to use. For instance, you could use the OSHA provisions if your protected activity had to do with violations related to:

  • Corporate accounting
  • Securities
  • Aviation
  • Waste disposal and toxic substances
  • Water quality
  • Air pollution
  • Atomic energy
  • Commercial vehicles

If you reported fraud and were later fired, you could use the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This law forbids employers from harassing, terminating, or taking any retaliatory action against an employee.

How Does California Protect Whistle-Blowers?

California’s law offers wider protection for employees who have been workplace retaliation victims. For instance, it is not limited to adverse actions related to reporting unlawful practices to an outside agency.

Instead, the state laws protect you if you:

  • Make internal reports of violations that would protect the public interest
  • Refuse to take part in activities that would violate a federal or state law

Basically, you don’t need to have reported anything to motivate the retaliation. California can protect you in a variety of whistle-blower situations. A skilled San Francisco whistle-blower protection attorney can advise on when to use state laws to seek justice. And it doesn’t matter whether the company was cleared of the charges you reported- the laws protect you regardless.

Where Can I File an Administrative Complaint in California?

In addition to filing a lawsuit, you could also file an administrative complaint against the employer in California. The agency to use usually depends on the laws you choose to apply in your case. For instance:

  • The California State Personnel Board, if you are a state government employee
  • The California Labor Commissioner, if filing under Labor Code 6310 and 98.6
  • The California Labor and Workplace Development Agency if filing under Labor Code 1102.5

If your employer is a state government, you cannot proceed with a lawsuit without lodging an administrative complaint. It is not mandatory to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner, and fired employees can go straight to the lawsuit if they wish to. Under LC 1102.5, you can proceed with the lawsuit if the agency chooses not to investigate your case.

What Do I Gain by Filing a Complaint Against My Employer?

A retaliation complaint might give you the satisfaction of knowing that an employer probably won’t take adverse actions against an employee for their engagement in protected activity in the future. But there is more to filing such complaints. You can actually recover damages from your employer in the form of:

  • Punitive damages for their misbehavior
  • Attorney fees
  • Compensation for loss of career opportunities, mental suffering, and physical pain
  • Lost wages and benefits

The specifics of what you can sue for vary from case to case. But a seasoned San Francisco whistle-blower protection attorney can evaluate your case and advise on the types of damages you could pursue.

How Much Time Do I Have to Exercise My Rights?

Victims of workplace retaliation are also time-bound, just like complainants in most other civil lawsuits. The timelines differ based on the type of protection you choose to enforce, for instance:

  • 12 months for government employees
  • Six months for complaints related to occupational health and safety
  • Six months for reports relating to labor law violations
  • Three years for general whistle-blower protection

Filing a complaint or a lawsuit early is advantageous because it allows you sufficient time to prepare an award-winning case. But it is not all lost if you delayed because you were unsure. You can still consult with a California attorney to find out how much time you have left.

Experienced Legal Experts Aggressively Representing Employees

Employee retaliation can be challenging to prove. It requires extensive experience handling similar matters and in-depth knowledge of state and federal laws. You need the experience and skill of an employment attorney.

Our lawyers have specialized in handling matters of this nature. Speak to us today, and we will seek the best possible outcome for your case in California.

Geonetta & Frucht, LLP
By: Geonetta & Frucht, LLP