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What is a whistleblower and what protections do they get?

The term "whistleblower" might be heard frequently, but in California, it is important to know specifically what it means and what protection against retaliation whistleblowers receive if they issue a report of wrongdoing on the part of their employer. A whistleblower provides information regarding a federal or state law violation; a failure to comply or violation with local, state or federal regulations or rules; and unsafe working conditions or practices at the place of employment or during the course of employment of the worker.

Under certain circumstances, a whistleblower may also refuse to take part in an activity if it is in violation of the law or regulations. This information can be provided to an employee who is in a position of authority, another employee who can investigate or correct the violation or failure to comply or inform the government or a law enforcement agency.

Whistleblowers are given certain protections under the law. The employer is not allowed to implement or enforce any policy, rule or regulation that will prevent an employee from providing information to the proper authorities. The employer is not allowed to retaliate against a whistleblower who reports employer misconduct. Similarly, it is not legal for the employer to retaliate against an employee who refuses to take part in an activity that is in violation of the law.

When there is a violation of any kind, workers have an obligation to report it for the good of themselves and their coworkers. There should not be any fear of wrongful termination or any other form of retaliation against an employee who exercises his or her right to be a whistleblower. Those who believe their acts as a whistleblower have resulted in any problems at work may want to discuss the matter with an experienced legal professional who understands how to pursue a claim based on employee rights.

Source: dir.ca.gov, "Whistleblowers Are Protected," accessed on June 14, 2016