Whistleblowers are people who take personal risks to stand up to business misconduct. Companies often prioritize revenue above all else and can break the law or endanger their workers as a result. New employees, those transitioning to new positions or those recently made aware of certain safety standards may recognize that their employer has done something unlawful.
Infractions can put people’s safety at risk or endanger a company’s future. Nevertheless, those who are inclined to speak up are often worried about the potential consequences of doing so. Thankfully, both California state law and federal law extend protection to whistleblowers. Businesses cannot fire or otherwise retaliate against those who stand up against company misconduct.
The following actions may constitute whistleblowing in California, under certain circumstances.
Refusing to break the law
The guidance provided by California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement is very clear about whistleblowing. Workers become whistleblowers if they recognize illegal conduct in the workplace and refuse to take place. Someone moving into the billing department at a hospital, for example, could become a whistleblower by refusing to unbundle or upcode when billing for appointments.
Making an internal report
Sometimes, workers can go to management or human resources to advise them of an issue involving a few employees or one department. The act of notifying someone within a company’s chain of command about misconduct in an attempt to resolve the issue is a form of whistleblowing.
Notifying regulatory authorities
Sometimes, workers know that the organization where they work will not take action over misconduct or safety violations. Other times, they may have attempted to report matters internally to no avail. Notifying law enforcement agencies or regulatory authorities about company infractions can make someone a whistleblower. So can the decision to file a qui tam lawsuit if the company has violated the False Claims Act through improper billing practices.
Workers may need to maintain their own records affirming that they engaged in protected activities that constitute whistleblowing in case the company does retaliate against them. Being aware of when protections are available – and seeking legal guidance whenever necessary – can help workers avoid career consequences for doing the right thing.