Los Angeles has innumerable nicknames that speak to its Hollywood side – La La Land, the City of Angels, the Entertainment Capital of the World, and so on. But in addition to the entertainment industry, Los Angeles encompasses countless corporations that deal in all types of subject matter, and some of them seek to get ahead in any way they deem necessary.
Employees who report unlawful or unethical conduct by their employers to the relevant authority are referred to as whistleblowers, and in some situations, blowing the proverbial whistle on inappropriate conduct can even yield a small windfall for that whistleblower. However, employers who catch wind of this informing sometimes strike back, taking what is called adverse employment action against someone for the express purpose of retaliation. If this has happened to you, you need a good Los Angeles whistleblower defense attorney: you have rights against being treated in such a way.
What Is Retaliation?
Retaliation is not specifically defined in the California Labor Code, but the relevant statute argues that an employer may not “make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy” designed to stop employees from providing information to a government agency or to anyone else authorized to investigate potentially improper conduct. This gives a lot of room for employers to try and act, but it also means that an employee has a lot of room to allege that a specific action is indicative of a “rule” subtly punishing their conduct, protected though it might be.
It is important to understand that retaliation does not necessarily have to mean termination. Any adverse employment action can be taken as retaliatory if there is evidence to suggest it; if you are demoted or passed over for a promotion, if you are pushed to take a pay cut, or even something like denial of access to training or resources may constitute retaliation in certain circumstances.
It is also worth noting that you need not have actually participated in informing on any conduct by your employer – California’s laws protect those reasonably assumed to be whistleblowers, even if they have not engaged in any activity that can be classified as whistleblowing. In other words, your employer may act against you even if you have done nothing against their interests, and if this does occur, you are protected as if you had blown the whistle.
The Law Is On Your Side
Generally, California’s Labor Code states that any employee can be fired at any time, for any reason (“at will”). However, there are some exceptions to this rule, and one of them is that an employer cannot fire someone for a reason that is against public policy – in other words, for a reason that would shock the conscience of the public. Being fired or disciplined for informing on illegal activity, or for refusing to participate in illegal or unethical activity, is decidedly something that would shock the conscience of the public.
Be advised, however, that public policy exceptions, however, only apply when people lose their jobs – whistleblower-specific regulations which prohibit retaliatory conduct apply even if someone is not fired. Thus, depending on your specific case’s facts, it is generally better to file any charge under the California whistleblower requirements (it is possible to sue under more than one), if not under the federal equal employment laws.
It is also worth noting that depending which law you choose to file suit under, the statute of limitations (the time in which a lawsuit must be filed) will vary. Depending on the law, it will be anywhere between 6 months and 3 years – most of the time it will be 6 months to file with the California Labor Commissioner or similar governing body, and 3 years to file a lawsuit if the hearing is unsuccessful.
Special Rules For Medical Professionals
Because they see so much substandard conduct and care, California has established certain special whistleblower laws covering the duty of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to report inappropriate or substandard patient care to federal authorities. California has officially made it state public policy (in other words, a motivation on which the state will act) to seek better patient care via reporting the unsafe or dangerous. Thus, the state places a high premium on reporters like doctors and nurses being free of retaliation if they seek to blow the proverbial whistle. If a medical professional is retaliated against for reporting unsafe patient care or practices, they may bring suit in the same manner as any employee, though the fine for an employer found guilty of this type of retaliation is somewhat higher than for others.
What Can I Recover?
The type and amount of damages or remedies you may be entitled to will depend on the type of case you bring. California has numerous different laws governing whistleblower defense, and which one you sue under may govern the nature of one’s damages. Nonetheless, some types of damages are more constant. If you are successful in your retaliation action against your employer, you may possibly recover:
- Lost wages (if you were wrongfully terminated) and/or back benefits that may have been denied to you;
- Damages for physical or emotional pain and suffering;
- Damages for more inchoate harms like loss of enjoyment or quality of life; and
- In some cases, if it can be shown that the retaliatory conduct was especially egregious, you may even be able to receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages not designed to make a plaintiff whole, but rather to specifically punish the defendant for particularly outrageous conduct.
Our Whistleblower Defense Lawyers in LA Will Fight For You
Blowing the whistle on unethical activity is a brave act, and if you are unjustly punished for it, the temptation can be to wash your hands of the entire affair. However, if you have a knowledgeable attorney on your side to fight for you, it can help you realize that you are not alone, and that you have allies on your side.
Whistleblower suits can be very personal, especially if you experience unfair treatment as a result of your doing the right thing. Our attorneys understand that it can feel frightening to stand against a company seemingly on your own, but we have 15 experienced lawyers on our team with the knowledge and work ethic to fight hard for you and your rights. Please contact our law firm today at 213-285-0631 to schedule a free case review, or use the online form on our website.