Fred Geonetta
By: Fred Geonetta

California is home to the largest employers in the country, with sectors in food, manufacturing, entertainment, and energy. When working in the Golden State, you expect to work in a safe and lawful environment. But this is not always the case.

Violations happen at the workplace every day. Without the courage of men and women who report these violations, these wrongdoings may never come to light. But these people who deserve our respect need to be protected against retaliation with the help of San Francisco employment attorneys.

Who Is a Whistleblower?

You might already have heard the term “whistleblower” in the news. One of the most famous whistleblowers was Mark Felt, a former FBI Associate Director who brought down the Nixon administration at the height of the Watergate scandal.

But reporting illegal activity or unethical behavior isn’t a reserve for the highest government levels. Ordinary people can also report suspected illegal activity, especially at their workplace.

A whistleblower can be an employee, contractor or subcontractor with reasonable cause to believe that they are reporting unsafe work practices/conditions or violations. If you want to report, you may do this internally with the company’s upper management, the company’s ethics office, or external regulators who regulate the company.

Do Those Who Report Illegal Activity at Work Protected by The Law?

If you’re considering reporting illegal activity at your workplace, you may be worried about what will happen to you later. Are you worried you may be fired or demoted by your employer?

Luckily, California Labor Code 1102.5(b) protects you against employer retaliation if you report a violation or noncompliance. This law prohibits your employer from discharging, suspending, demoting, harassing, threatening, and denying you a promotion because of reporting illegal activity to a government agency.

The California Labor Commissioner also protects workers who report labor code violations, such as paying less than minimum wage. This law would protect you even during job applications if you reported a complaint with your previous employers.

There’s another law that protects employees who report occupational health and safety rules violations with California’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA). State employees are also protected under the California Whistleblower Protection Act. If you believe you’ve been a victim of whistleblower retaliation, talk to a San Francisco whistleblower protection attorney to learn your next steps.

Can I Whistle Blow an Illegal Activity and Remain Anonymous?

It is possible to report illegal activity and remain anonymous. However, it isn’t advisable to count on it as many cases eventually become public or you may be required to provide more information and help with the investigations.

Even though you may wish to remain anonymous, you should expect the entity you’re reporting could finally discover your identity as they also have a right to defend themselves. That’s why you need a whistleblower protection attorney in San Francisco who can protect your rights.

How Do I Report Suspected Illegal Activity at My Workplace?

People working with federal agencies can report with the OIG (Our Inspector General). State workers in California can report with the state auditor or Cal OSHA if it is a case of workplace safety violation.

In California, private sector employees should first talk to whistleblower protection attorneys before doing anything else. We strongly advise you to speak to an experienced employment lawyer first before filing a complaint. You run the risk of suffering employer retaliation if you complain internally without legal guidance. But remember, you should report any illegal activity at work with the authorities if that activity puts you or others in danger.

Once you get in touch with your whistleblower employment attorney, you’ll be asked to gather and share evidence of the illegality, provide any documentation or retaliation claim. All this will be vital in putting a case together.

What Should I Do If My Employer Fires Me for Reporting Illegal Activity?

Whistleblowers should actually be rewarded for their efforts and not harassed and discriminated against. Through them, unethical behavior, corruption, or health risks at their workplace can be stopped. Fortunately, California understands this too well.

If you are thinking of becoming a whistleblower or have already done it and you are now being retaliated against, seek the legal advice of one of our California whistleblower protection attorneys. You will fully understand your options going forward.

File a Lawsuit

You may be required to file a complaint with a state agency before filing a lawsuit. In the suit, you may be able to recover damages. Find out the damages you could get and how to get them if your employer retaliated against you by talking to an employer retaliation attorney in San Francisco today.

Deadline for Filing

Remember, there are time limits in which you must file a lawsuit or complaint in California. You have three years to file a lawsuit if it’s a general whistleblower protection and six months to report a labor law violation with California Labor Commissioner. OSHA complaints should be made within six months or three years to file a lawsuit, while protection for state government employees has 12 months to file a complaint. It’s, however, best to contact an experienced whistleblower protection attorney to help you understand the time limits that apply to your case.

What If I Was Wrong and There Wasn’t Any Illegal Activity Happening?

Even if you were wrong on your information and perhaps there wasn’t any illegality at your workplace, you’re still protected. The law will protect you as long as you had “reasonable cause to believe” that wrongdoing was happening.

Learn Your Legal Options Today from Skilled Employment Attorneys

Taking the route of reporting illegal activity at your workplace can be terrifying and overwhelming, especially if it’s linked to your employer. You risk being punished for being a whistleblower. But this shouldn’t be the case. An employment attorney in San Francisco can stand up for you for doing the right thing.

At Geonetta & Frucht, LLP, we can help you enforce your rights without destroying your career. We represent and defend employees in the private and public sectors. Feel free to talk to us for a confidential consultation and we’ll advise you on your legal options.

Fred Geonetta
By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.