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What is whistleblower retaliation?

As an employee, you know when things are not quite right at work. If, however, you strongly suspect that the company for which you work is engaging in illegal practices or activities, this is serious indeed and goes far beyond the relatively petty little things that you dislike about your workplace. If you feel compelled to blow the whistle with regard to these activities or practices, but fear you might lose your job if you do, be assured that your employer cannot fire you for doing so, and also cannot retaliate against you in any way.

This is because a number of federal and California laws exist that protect you and other whistleblowers from workplace retaliation when you do the ethical and moral thing by bringing your company’s illegal activities to the attention of your supervisor and/or the appropriate governmental agency. These laws protect you in the event you must blow the whistle on such activities as the following:

  • Any health or safety code violation(s)
  • Any fraud or mismanagement of funds
  • Any workplace discrimination or harassment
  • Any violation(s) of the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Any wage, hour or overtime pay violation(s)

Sarbanes-Oxley Act

Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002 as a result of suspected shareholder fraud by several publicly traded companies. The government could not obtain the proof it needed of these misdeeds without cooperation from employees in the companies who knew what was going on. None of these employees came forward, however, for fear of being fired. The Act solved this dilemma by putting whistleblower protections in place.

In the past 16 years, a number of additional federal and state laws have enhanced whistleblower protections. All you need to avail yourself of these protections is a good-faith belief of your company’s illegal activities coupled with a good-faith intention to stop them via a complaint.

Should your company retaliate against you by demoting you, disciplining you or firing you, you can file a lawsuit against it to recoup whatever damages you suffered as a result of the retaliation. Depending on the precise circumstances, your employer also could face criminal prosecution.

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