Whistleblowers have many different legal protections under both state and federal laws. It is important for whistleblowers to get their own independent legal advice before taking any actions that could jeopardize their employment. Our Bay Area whistleblower attorneys can help you qualify for whistleblower protections, report the correct information to the correct authorities, and respond to any retaliation attempts your employer might make. Learn more about your rights as a whistleblower below.
There is no single law that creates blanket protection for whistleblowers. Instead, there are a series of workplace protection laws, both at the state and federal levels. Many of these individual laws create specific protection for employees who report violations of the law at issue. For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) was passed in response to the Enron scandal and other investor fraud schemes.
Among provisions for disclosure and financial accountability, the Act also has specific protections for employees who report SOX violations. A more current example involves the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Many emergency orders, acts, regulatory rules, and statutes have been passed in an attempt to make the workplaces of California as safe as possible. Employees have the right to report employers who do not follow COVID-19 safety rules to the Department of Labor without the fear of retaliation.
It is important to understand exactly what rights you have as a whistleblower. If you exceed the scope of whistleblower protections, you could face retaliation from your employer. There is no legal recourse against an employer who retaliates for actions that are not covered by whistleblower laws. So what are these rights?
Your rights as a whistleblower will depend on the specific law under which you seek protection. Most employment laws require whistleblowers to make reports to the appropriate authorities. For example, SOX allows employees to report violations to their employer, a federal agency, or Congress. It does not extend protection to an employee who simply reports the wrongdoing to the press.
Whistleblowers must report wrongdoing to the right people, but they must also disclose only protected information. Confidential information that is not related to the company’s wrongdoing may not be protected. For example: imagine that a restaurant worker reports COVID violations to the local health inspector. Information about the safety of the restaurant is pertinent, but trade secrets (such as the chef’s secret sauce) are not related. The employer could retaliate for this unrelated disclosure. Trade secrets are not, however, always irrelevant. In the SOX example, an employee might need to reveal information about a trademark or patent in order to prove that the investors have been defrauded.
The best way to protect your legal rights is to consult with a Bay Area whistleblower attorney before making any disclosures. Our attorneys strategize the best way to make the right disclosures to the right authorities. With a plan in place, you can be prepared to respond to any retaliation your employer might attempt. Call (415) 484-0980 or visit our website to schedule your consultation.
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