Whistleblower Attorney Serving Temecula, California
One of the most widely covered cases of a whistleblower bringing down a major corporation came in January 2022 when a jury in Northern California found Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes guilty of defrauding investors with false claims about the efficiency of its blood-testing techniques. Theranos and its high-flying CEO claimed it “could run over 200 tests with tiny amounts of blood.” However, a former employee’s testimony unveiled the truth that it “could never handle more than 12 types of blood tests on its proprietary Edison machine….” The jury found Holmes guilty on four counts, including fraud.
The whistleblower in question had already left the company and did not file any claims for retaliation, but says after she spoke to the Wall Street Journal to expose the truth, she was threatened by the company’s lawyers and was followed around her home.
Both the federal government and the State of California have laws protecting the rights of whistleblowers. A whistleblower is generally an employee, or someone with inside knowledge, who reveals a company’s illicit or unsafe activities. Laws protect whistleblowers from retaliation, but that does not always prevent employers from taking punitive action, including termination of the whistleblower.
Whistleblower protection attaches not only to conduct that discloses actual violations of law, but also disclosures by an employee where the employee reasonably believes he or she is reporting a crime. In addition, reporting criminal conduct or conduct you believe to be criminal to your employer may constitute whistleblowing and have the same protections as if you reported it to a government entity.
If you have blown the whistle on your employer in or around Temecula, San Diego, Los Angeles, or anywhere else in Southern California, or are an employer being accused of retaliation over a whistleblowing incident, contact the Law Offices of Charles P. Boylston.
We are dedicated to promoting a better business environment by resolving workplace injustices as well as protecting the rights of employers. We proudly serve clients throughout Southern California, including Orange County, Riverside County, San Diego County, and Los Angeles County.
Whistleblower laws largely came into effect in 1970, leading to the building of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA oversees the protection of whistleblowers on the federal level and enforces safety and health regulations.
In total, OSHA oversees 22 whistleblower statutes, which cover everything from general and industry-specific safety and health regulations, then on to asbestos, clean air, rail safety, pipelines, transit systems, consumer products, food safety, and much more. The most recent legal additions include the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) as amended by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
California operates an approved OSHA State Plan, which means it administers its own version of Federal OSHA and actually adheres to higher safety and health standards than Federal OSHA. Cal/OSHA is the agency to which an employee can turn if, by whistleblowing, he or she is subjected to discrimination or retaliation at work.
California also has its own whistleblower statute. Whistleblowers are protected in public and private employment by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The policy states that if an employer is retaliated against, they may be entitled to a reinstatement of their employment, benefits, and lost wages.
Employees can also pursue civil actions in California state court, for violations of the whistleblower laws, and if successful, may recover reasonable attorney fees for the litigation along with damages, including emotional injury damages.
Other federal agencies that protect whistleblowers from retaliation and discrimination include the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), the Department of Labor (DOL) and its Wage and Hour Division (WHD), and the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS).
What Acts Are Protected?
Whistleblowing can take several forms. Reporting a safety, health, or another violation to Cal-OSHA is one example. Participating in a government investigation of a suspected violation at work is another. Refusing to participate in an activity that would violate state or federal statutes is also covered.
It should be noted that the employee need only have “reasonable cause” to report a violation to be covered by the law. Even if the suspected abuse turns out not to be a violation, the whistleblower is nonetheless protected by state and federal law.
What Is Retaliation?
Retaliation results from when an employer responds with an adverse reaction from two possible situations: 1. An employee reports a safety, health, public policy, or other violation to the appropriate enforcing agency such as Cal-OSHA; or 2. An employee participates in any investigation into such a violation. Retaliation can take many forms, including:
Termination or laying off
Denying promotion or overtime
Restricting or removing benefits, including time off
Disciplining in an unsupported way
Intimidating or harassing
Changing the employee’s work hours to their detriment
Reassigning to a lesser position
Denying training for advancement purposes
Reducing the wage rate or hours worked
Constructive discharge: making it so hard on the employee that they choose to resign
Isolating, mocking, or ostracizing the employee
Serving Temecula, California
If you as an employee have a whistleblower retaliation or discrimination complaint, or if your business is facing a whistleblower retaliation charge, you need experienced support. Contact the Law Offices of Charles P. Boylston if you’re in or around Temecula, California, or anywhere in the surrounding counties. We are committed to helping build a better business environment for everyone. We will be happy to meet with you and advise you of your legal options going forward. Reach out today.