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California enacts whistleblower protection statutes

Employees are expected to be productive at work and loyal to their organizations. However, if they see activities that their company is engaged in that are improper or illegal, they should report them accordingly. If they do so, they are protected from retaliation by their employer under both federal and California law.

A collection of laws passed in California within the last year has been aimed at preventing employers from retaliating against whistleblowers. The laws expand upon the existing federal laws and address the assistance of legal counsel in any retaliation activities. They prohibit retaliatory activities by anyone acting for the employer and expose the employer to fines of $10,000 per instance. Additionally, organizations may be subject to a loss of their business license, while legal counsel for the company may face disbarment or other discipline if the retaliation is related to immigration status.

A whistleblower is an individual that reports the misconduct of an organization. The forms of misconduct typically complained about encompass fraud, mismanagement of assets and safety code violations. In addition to the initial whistleblower, employees that confirm any complaints or make reports of their own are also considered whistleblowers. As long as the employee makes their complaint in good faith, they are afforded legal protections. Furthermore, their report doesn't need to be made to a government agency for the protections to kick-in. The employee is afforded protection from retaliation even they report their concerns internally.

Employee retaliation does not only include terminating or demoting an employee, but also addresses more subtle activities. These activities include unfair treatment, alienation and withholding promotions. If an employee is being subjected to any such conduct for reporting their organization's misconduct they may be entitled to legal relief.

Source: Corporate Compliance Insights, "New California Laws Target Whistleblower Retaliation, Expand Protection for Immigrant Workers," accessed on Nov. 16, 2014

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