Whistleblower Protection Defined:
A Whistleblower is an employee that reports an employer’s violation of the law or refuses to participate in the violation. When an employee blows the whistle, an employer is prohibited from retaliating against the employee. Employers, however, often ignore these laws. California has various laws that protect whistleblowers and punish employers that retaliate against employees.
With Whistleblower Protection, there are three main areas that an employee is protected from blowing the whistle on their employer:
- Reporting Violations Of Law or Refusing To Violate The Law;
- Reporting Unsafe Patient Care & Conditions; and
- Reporting Fraud Committed Against the Government;
Reporting a Violation of Law or Refusing to Violate the Law
Because of whistleblower protection, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal law, rule, or regulation. Nor may an employer retaliate against an employee for refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation the law. Some common examples of reporting, or refusing to participate in conduct that violates the law are:
- Workplace safety violations;
- Claims of fraud, false reporting or tax fraud;
- Illegal dumping of waste or toxic material; and
- Workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, failure to pay overtime, rest and meal break periods, and other wage and hour violations;
If you report your employer, or are asked by your employer to commit an act that you believe to be illegal, and you refuse to perform such act, and as a result you get fired, demoted, or otherwise harmed, you may have a valid claim for retaliation.
Whistleblowing Laws for Medical Staff Regarding Patient Safety
California has passed some special whistleblower laws for medical professionals. It is the public policy of California to encourage patients, nurses, doctors, and other health care workers to notify government entities of suspected unsafe patient care and conditions. California wants to protect patients and ensure that health care is safe. This is a very powerful law and public policy to improve patient care and protect those that report what they believe are unsafe practices.
Government Whistleblower Protection Laws – Financial Abuse or Fraud
An individual with first hand knowledge of fraud or corruption against the government can bring a civil lawsuit against the company under the False Claims Act. These lawsuits are referred to as qui tam. Qui tam cases are a powerful way for whistleblowers to help the government stop many kinds of fraud – Medicare and Medicaid fraud, defense contractor fraud and numerous other types of frauds that impact the government financially – and recover money that has been literally stolen from the U.S. Treasury and taxpayers.
The False Claims Act rewards whistleblowers whose qui tam lawsuits recover government funds and provides job protection to whistleblowers because of the professional and personal risks they take to expose and stop fraud against the government.
Those found liable under the False Claims Act may have to pay as much as three times the government’s losses plus penalties for each false claim. A person that blows the whistle and brings the qui tam lawsuit can be rewarded by receiving between 15% and 30% of the recovery.