Oakland Whistleblower Lawyer
Who is considered to be a “whistleblower,” and what is unlawful “retaliation” in California?
A “whistleblower” under California law is an employee who discloses information either (1) externally to a government or law enforcement agency, or (2) internally within his company to a person with authority over the employee, or to another employee with authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or who provides information to or testifies before a public body conducting an investigation, hearing or inquiry, AND the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses:
- A violation of a state or federal statute,
- A violation or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, or
- With reference to employee safety or health, unsafe working conditions or work practices in the employee’s employment or place of employment.
A whistleblower can also be an employee who refuses to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of a state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, or an employee who the employer believes will report and retaliates against that employee before they report.
Whistleblowing must pertain to a violation of an existing law – not just a poor business practice, mismanagement, or embezzlement going on internally within the company.
The general definition of whistleblowing includes making internal and external complaints as well as making complaints or threatening to make complaints externally to a government authority, but also extends to providing information to and cooperating with governmental authorities, and/or testifying in court about some unlawful activity.
The unlawful activity that the whistleblower complains about could be criminal, for example embezzling of funds by the staff of his non-profit employer, but could also be a violation of civil law, for example, the employer failing to track and pay employee overtime. However, the whistleblowing must pertain to a violation of an existing law – not just a poor business practice, mismanagement, or embezzlement going on internally within the company.
Recent Changes in Whistleblower Protection
Until fairly recently, whistleblower protection used to be limited only to external complaints by an employee to governmental authorities, which excluded a large number of employees whose natural reaction is to complain internally to their supervisor, some other member of management, or to people within their organization designated to receive and investigate that specific type of complaint. This gap has now been plugged up and qualifying internal complaints provide whistleblower status.
In addition, the whistleblower does not have to be correct (i.e., that the activity complained of was actually unlawful) but must only have a reasonable belief that it is unlawful. Thus, for example, an employee who complains about a workplace safety violation that results in a governmental investigation gains whistleblower protection if a reasonable person in the position of the employee would believe that unlawful activity took place. It is irrelevant whether anyone actually investigates, makes a finding of a violation, the complaint turns out to have merit, or any governmental entity chooses to take any action.
Finally, the reporting internally or externally does not have to be part of the employee’s job duties.
How are whistleblowers protected in California against retaliation?
An employer cannot harass, discriminate, retaliate, or take other adverse actions against the whistleblower. By satisfying the legal requirements of a whistleblower, an employee gains the same type of protection as those based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. These whistleblower protections exist because the state of California wants to encourage employees to bring unlawful activities to the attention of persons within the organization or the government who have the ability to investigate and fix the problems.
An employer who retaliates against a whistleblower may be required to reinstate the employee’s employment and work benefits, pay lost wages, pay civil penalties, and take other steps necessary to comply with the law.
This whistleblower protection also extends to the families of the whistleblower.
What are some examples of whistleblowing in California for which the employer cannot retaliate?
The reporting, threat of reporting, or refusal to participate in the following activities would create a protected whistleblower status for an employee:
- OSHA violations
- Hazardous substances
- Unlawful discrimination or harassment
- Improper health care facility care, service, or conditions
- Wage and hour violations
How do I file a whistleblower or retaliation claim in California?
Whistleblower cases are complex and it would be in your best interest to contact an attorney. The deadline to sue on a retaliation claim is generally within two years of the wrongful act but the whistleblowing claim may be only one of your potential claims, all of which may have different filing deadlines.
Get a Free Case Review From Experienced Oakland Whistleblower Lawyers
If you are an employee who feels their rights have been violated, or you need help negotiating or reviewing your employee contract, please call to speak to one of our expert Oakland whistleblower lawyers at 925-937-3900 or submit our form.
You can be confident in relying on our zealous and effective Oakland litigators:
We have served Northern California for over 35 years.
Our attorneys have been honored with numerous accolades, including SuperLawyers, AV Rating, and Top 100 Trial Attorney Awards.
In our decades of legal service to the community, we have garnered a substantial reputation. We are respected by opposing counsel, feared by insurance companies, and followed by jurors.
We combine Big Firm experience with boutique office attention and care. Several of our attorneys have experience working for the biggest law firms in the country, including the most prominent maritime defense law firm. Our attorneys rely on that big-firm know-how but prefer the personal touch of a smaller firm, allowing us to provide individualized and attentive representation to each of our clients.
We’ve been through it, too. Attorney Mark Venardi had to personally deal with a medical malpractice injury he suffered at a time when he was working a blue-collar job on an offshore oil rig; he knows what it’s like to be a working man dealing with a personal injury. He built his way up to working for the biggest maritime defense firm in the country, before deciding to focus on helping people like himself who were hurt by negligence and mistreatment from others.
We like to fight for the underdog. Attorney Martin Zurada is an immigrant and the son of immigrants who tirelessly worked his way up through education and experience to attain the American dream. Even though he has served in large, high-level litigation law firms, he prefers helping clients directly, fighting against injustices, and securing victories for the little guy who has been wronged.
We win. We have secured multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. In our combined tenure, we have recovered tens of millions of dollars for our clients across our broad areas of practice.
We care first and foremost about our clients. We dedicate ourselves to serve each and every client personally, and we make ourselves available to our clients around the clock.
There is no cost to you until we win. If we don’t make a recovery for you, we will not collect a fee. And all initial consultations are free of charge.
Dedicated Areas of Practice
We offer a wide range of litigation services for Oakland personal injury and employment law clients. Specifically, our areas of dedicated practice span the following issues:
Employment Law. California employers must assure proper pay to employees and comply with a variety of rules and regulations to prevent discrimination and unfair treatment of employees. We represent victims of wage and hour violations, employment discrimination, workplace harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and any other form of California workplace mistreatment. If you believe you were treated inappropriately at work, we can help.
Personal Injury. If you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence, you deserve compensation. That’s where we come in. As Oakland personal injury attorneys, we right the wrongs done to our clients. And we do it at our cost during the entire duration of your case. There is never any fee until we win. Give us a call if you have been hurt in a car accident, by a toxic spill or contamination, as a result of medical malpractice, due to abuse or neglect, in a maritime accident, by a vicious animal attack, or any other incident caused by someone else’s negligence.
The Sooner You Speak to an Attorney, the Stronger Your Chances for Recovery Will Become.
Contact the Oakland litigation attorneys at Venardi Zurada today, and let’s get started. We are available to talk any time, so whether you call, email or chat online, we’ll respond and set up an appointment to meet you. We have several Spanish speakers in the office and welcome the opportunity to cater our services to Oakland’s Spanish-speaking population. You pay no fee until we win for you, so you have nothing to lose by contacting our office for a free consultation. The sooner you call, the faster we can start getting results for you. Call 925-937-3900.