The law encourages employees with knowledge of wrongdoing to report it. Employees are one of the best sources of information about illegal activities because they have access to information that is not known to the general public. If you report wrongdoing, the law can protect you from retaliation by your employer. Speak with a Bay Area whistleblower retaliation attorney about whistleblowers’ legal rights in California.
A whistleblower is an employee who reports wrongdoing of their employers, refuses to engage in illegal actions at work, and/or threatens to report wrongdoing. The law protects whistleblowers from retaliation, but only if their reports are made according to the requirements of the law. There are many laws that define illegal corporate conduct and add protections for employees who make reports under that specific law. Whistleblower employees may report fraud or illegal activity concerning a wide range of activities, including, for example, pharmaceutical promotion, healthcare, financial fraud and government contract fraud.
One common example of these laws is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. In the wake of the Enron scandal, Congress sought to limit the financial deception of shareholders and regulators, while also protecting employees who report such fraud. The Act, therefore, allows employees to make reports of financial wrongdoing to specified authorities (such as the Securities & Exchange Commission) without retaliation.
The Department of Labor also protects whistleblowers who report certain labor violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or directly to the Department of Labor. The Internal Revenue Service also maintains whistleblower programs for employees who report tax evasion.
It is important for employees to understand that not all disclosures are protected. First, a disclosure must be made to the proper authorities. An employee cannot simply reveal confidential information to the media. Some whistleblower laws specifically require the employee to go up the chain of command in the company. Only if that fails may the employee make reports to the proper government authority that regulates the matter at hand.
Other laws limit the information that can be disclosed. In general, only information that is necessary to report the wrongdoing will be protected. Additional disclosures about confidential information, trade secrets, intellectual property, or other details not related to the wrongdoing might not be protected under whistleblower laws.
So what do whistleblowers need to do to protect themselves from retaliation? It is important to get your own legal advice as soon as possible. The company’s legal department is there to serve the company – not you. You need advice from a whistleblower rights lawyer who is on your side. Your lawyer will advise you what to disclose – and to whom – in order to retain your protected status as a whistleblower. Your lawyer will also be able to advise you of any potential complications that could come up and how to resolve them to be sure you are still protected.
Whistleblowers have the legal right to report wrongdoing without the fear of retaliation. The experienced employment lawyers at Olivier & Schreiber LLP have years of experience handling whistleblower cases. Call (415) 484-0980 or visit our website to schedule your consultation today.
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