Do You Have A Whistleblower Retaliation Case?
What Is Whistleblower Retaliation?
In general, California law protects those who report or threaten to report unlawful conduct in the workplace. The law makes it illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for coming forward with these complaints, even if you’re not 100% correct about the conduct being illegal. As long as you have a good faith belief that the conduct is unlawful at the time you make your complaint, it will be protected by law.
How Do I Blow The Whistle?
California law simply requires that you report the illegal conduct to either (1) a government agency or regulatory body or (2) internally to someone at your company who has the power and authority to investigate and/or correct the problem.
Most employees prefer to complain internally to either Human Resources or a high-level manager who has the power and authority to investigate.
A key element to remember is that it must be a genuine complaint of illegal activity. Thus, vague messages that you’re simply “uncomfortable,” “concerned,” or “worried about certain things” may not suffice to put the employer on notice. It should be clear that you believe the conduct is likely illegal and that you are reporting it for that purpose.
For obvious reasons, this is best done in writing, as your whistleblower complaint will become critical evidence if you are later retaliated against and terminated. Although not required, employees should lodge these complaints by email whenever possible and save or forward a copy to their personal account for safekeeping. Many employers will try to defend these claims by insisting that the employee “never complained” about illegal activity.
Since the burden will be on you to prove that you made complaints of illegal conduct, you will want to save all such documents and communications.
What If They Fire Me Before I Blow The Whistle?
While this may present logistical challenges to your case, it’s important to know that California law still protects you if it can be shown that your employer fired you because they knew or suspected that you were about to blow the whistle.
This is obviously easier said than done, but you will want witnesses and/or communications to show that the employer was put on notice of your intent to blow the whistle.
When Do I Contact A Whistleblower Attorney?
Ideally, you should call an experienced whistleblower attorney before you blow the whistle. Many whistleblower attorneys can walk you through the process and assist you in drafting a proper whistleblower email to your employer (i.e. to direct it to the right people and to make it clear that you are reporting potentially illegal activity).
How Do I Find A Whistleblower Attorney?
This may be a bit difficult, as many attorneys advertise themselves as whistleblower attorneys but have little to no experience with these types of claims.
A Google search should turn up hundreds of results, but you want to look for a whistleblower attorney who:
Has previous experience representing whistleblowers in actual lawsuits – meaning the lawsuit was filed in a court of law and litigated by both sides before settling or going to trial;
Only represents individual employees, not insurance companies or large employer corporations;
Has large, whistleblower trial verdicts – i.e. not just settlements, but has actually gone to trial and obtained a verdict from a judge or jury on a whistleblower case.
All of this can usually be verified by checking an attorney’s “Results” page, which should list his or her relevant experience as a whistleblower attorney.
Additionally, if you see attorneys who practice in many different areas of law, this may be a red flag. Most all whistleblower attorneys practice exclusively labor and employment law and nothing else. This is because employment law itself tends to be very complex and constantly changing. Attorneys who practice in other areas of law will usually not have time to keep up with those changes and will usually not have the same reputation in the employment law community.
What Can A Whistleblower Attorney Do For Me?
Aside from helping you frame and execute your whistleblower complaint, an experienced whistleblower attorney can assist with your claims if you are indeed retaliated against and terminated by your employer.
A whistleblower attorney can then represent you against your former employer by filing a lawsuit, obtaining all relevant documents and communications (even the behind-the-scenes emails that you haven’t seen yet), and obtain a fair settlement on your behalf. Further, a good whistleblower attorney should be able to take your case to trial if necessary, present your case to the jury, and obtain a large verdict on your behalf.