As an employee, you are guaranteed certain rights that extend to you regardless of your role in the workplace. What are these rights? Businesses are not exempt from regulations and laws that dictate how they do business. Sometimes, businesses do not use correct and lawful practices. If an employee witnesses such unlawful behavior, an employee has the right to report it without threat of retaliation by the employer.
These rights are laid out in California's Labor Code. Specifically, Section 1102.5 states in subsections (a) (b) (c) and (d) that the employee is never barred from reporting unlawful activity by the employer. The employer cannot prohibit the employee from reporting activity and, most importantly, they are not allowed to retaliate against the employee in any way. Retaliation could happen in several forms.
Retaliation could happen if the employer cuts hours or fires the employee after the activity is reported by the employee. Also, a hostile work environment could be created that makes the employee feel uncomfortable at work. The employee could be demoted to a lower position than previously held before reporting the illegal activity. Finally, the employee could be harassed in a multitude of ways.
If you have witnessed illicit activity in your workplace, or you have reported such activity, you have rights. If you have experienced retaliation in any way after reporting the activity your rights may have been violated. Although employer-employee relationships are typically uneven in power, there is never a time when the employer is allowed to retaliate against an employee for reporting unlawful activity.
Source: dir.ca.gov, "Retaliation Complaint Unit," Accessed Oct. 19, 2014