There are various laws on the books at both the state and the federal level that protect people against whistleblower retaliation. Whistleblower retaliation in California can occur when an employee or other insider comes to learn of knowledge that could translate as illegal activity or fraud. Due to the government wanting to encourage people who become aware of this type of information to come forward and share it without fear of repercussion, whistleblower retaliation in California and at the federal level is designed to make things as easy as possible for whistleblowers.
New Whistleblower Retaliation Guidelines in California
There is a new framework for whistleblower retaliation in California, that all employees should be aware of in order to protect their rights. The enactment goes into effect on the 1st of January in 2018 and dramatically changes the framework for protecting whistleblowers in California. The new provisions were a part of Senate Bill 306, which was signed into law by the governor at the beginning of October in 2017.
Currently whistleblower retaliation in California is prohibited in the form of an employer taking adverse action against the job applicant or an employee, because they engage in what is known as protected conduct. Protected conduct may include raising complaints about job safety or other activity. The State Labor Code allows for employees who allege that an employer has retaliated against them to file a complaint directly with the Labor Commissioner’s office. This must occur within six months of the retaliatory action.
The Labor Commissioner is then responsible for conducting an investigation into that retaliation. A formal complaint is the only way to trigger such an investigation. If the Labor Commissioner identifies that a violation has indeed occurred, then the employer must be directed to cease and desist, as well as take actions that could remedy the violation. Senate Bill 306 was first introduced in February of this year and will create three major changes in how whistleblower retaliation in California claims are evaluated.
First of all, the Labor Commissioner’s office can now begin an investigation before an employee complaint is filed regarding retaliation. Secondly, the Labor Commissioner has the responsibility and authority to penalize employers or issue citations. Penalties can include paying back lost wages or rehiring workers.
Finally, employees will have a decreased burden of proof in order to obtain injunctive relief to protect their job at the time that a civil retaliation claim is pending. The law allows employees to bring civil actions for retaliation claims to get injunctive relief from the court to maintain their job. Injunctive relief may be ordered by the court if the employee can illustrate reasonable cause if they were adversely affected because they asserted their rights or raised a claim of retaliation.
If you or someone you know has been negatively affected by whistleblower retaliation in California, you need to speak to an attorney to protect your rights. The attorneys at Bradley/Grombacher are here to help.