Employers can encounter many different types of whistleblowers in their daily operations. Most people imagine the classic example of a low-level employee who alerts federal authorities to embezzlement, fraud, or other white collar crimes. But these types of blatant offenses are increasingly rare. Whistleblowers can bring attention to a wide variety of far more subtle violations. These can all expose the unprepared employer to legal liability, poor public relations, and other damaging consequences.
Whistleblowers have rights under both state and federal law. The California Labor Code prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report a violation of the law to government authorities. Similarly, the federal Occupational Health and Safety Act also prohibits retaliation against employees who report violations of the Act. Employers who do not appropriately respond to whistleblower complaints may therefore face both state and federal liability – in addition to administrative consequences (such as the loss of a business license) and bad publicity. Continue reading