Whether you work in the public or private sector, your employer has a lot of power over your life. They determine when you work and how much money you make. Staying in the good graces of the company and your manager is important for your job security.
However, when you notice the business breaking the law, you have an ethical and legal obligation to speak up. If you know about criminal activity but say nothing, you could face charges as an accessory or part of a conspiracy in the future. Even if that weren’t the case, if the company doesn’t address the issue, you could lose your job if they are shut down later.
If you report issues internally to management or externally to government authorities, you have protection as a whistleblower under California law.
State law forbids employers from retaliating against whistleblowers
Whether you have evidence of a criminal act or just suspect it, when you speak up, you have legal protection from punishment for doing so. You also have the same protections if you advised management about systemic discrimination or harassment that you have witnessed in the workplace.
Your employer cannot fire you, demote you or otherwise retaliate against you for speaking up. If they do, you can make a complaint to the state and take civil action. In some cases, the state may even prosecute the offending parties.
You have protection even if compliance isn’t your job
In some states, only those in supervisory, regulatory or compliance positions within a business have the full protection of whistleblower laws. California extends protection to any worker who reports illegal activity, even if spotting and reporting that activity has nothing to do with their official job responsibilities.
Documenting your efforts as a whistleblower and how your employer responds can help you protect yourself. That way, you have evidence of what you did and how they responded if they retaliate against you, such as by firing you. That evidence will help your attorney with your case.