Whistleblower Rights/Whistleblower Retaliation Attorneys in Los Angeles
The people who know the most about unsafe, unethical, and/or illegal practices within an organization or workplace are usually the insiders who work there. Unfortunately, insiders also have the most to lose when blowing the whistle on their employers. They fear losing their jobs, their reputations, and the potential for civil and criminal liability as a result of speaking up.
At Greene Broillet & Wheeler, we understand these concerns. It takes courage to step forward with damaging information about your coworkers and company practices. But doing so should not put your name, livelihood, or safety at risk. That is why laws protect your rights as a whistleblower, and why attorneys like us stand up for people who violate those laws by retaliating against whistleblowers.
If you have blown the whistle, or contemplate doing so, on a wrongful or unsafe practice at your workplace or organization, and either fear retaliation or your company has already retaliated against you, then you have rights under California law. Contact Greene Broillet & Wheeler to learn how we can help you.
About Our Whistleblower Rights and Retaliation Practice
Greene Broillet & Wheeler handles the large, complex cases that exceed the resources and experience of other lawyers and law firms. One area of practice in which we have had significant success is in representing whistleblowers in actions to recover compensation and to protect their legal rights under California law.
In April 2019, for example, Greene Broillet & Wheeler attorneys Mark Quigley and Ivan Puchalt obtained a $2 million damage judgment on behalf of Mark Linskey, M.D., after a nearly month-long trial. Dr. Linskey had suffered retaliation after reporting his concerns over abuse of power, economic waste, violations of policy, patient safety and quality of patient care to the University of California system, where he worked as a neurosurgeon and served as a professor of medicine. Our team also recovered a $10 million dollar settlement for a client who was a whistleblower against The Regents of The University of California. The trial helped expose rampant economic waste, kickbacks, and other misconduct at UCLA Medical Center.
We excel in representing clients in high-profile positions or who work for large employers. Unlike many firms who represent plaintiffs, we have a longstanding track record of success that gives us the staying power to take on even the most powerful interests and well-financed defense attorneys.
About Whistleblower Rights in California (and Nationwide)
For decades, California has led the way in recognizing how important it is to protect the rights of whistleblowers who do a service to the public by shining light on abuses, malpractice, and other unsafe and illegal actions at their workplaces or within their organizations. The California Labor Code contains broad provisions barring employers from taking any adverse action against any employee who:
[discloses] information to a government or law enforcement agency, to a person with authority over the employee, or to another employee who has authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or [provides] information to, or [testifies] before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.
Employers who try to prevent or retaliate against an employee for disclosing the information described under the statute face potential civil liability for damages.
California’s anti-retaliation law is just one of many whistleblower protection laws. Most states have legal protections for whistleblowers. There are also substantial protections for whistleblowers under a wide range of federal laws. Speaking with an experienced whistleblower protection attorney is the safest and most effective way to determine which laws cover you in the event you decide to blow the whistle on your employer or organization.
What Information Disclosures Are Covered
The Labor Code provision above casts a broad net around the information employees have a right to disclose without fear of retaliation by describing it as information relating to the violation of virtually any kind of law or regulation. In practice, this information may include:
- Violations of workplace safety regulations, such as requirements for safety equipment and training
- Violations of rules governing human resources, such as failures to maintain the confidentiality of employment records
- Violations of environmental laws and regulations, such as those that prohibit or govern the disposal of toxic chemicals
- Antitrust violations, such as price fixing and auction-rigging
- Financial crimes and securities law violations, such as manipulating the books and records of a business to hide financial liabilities
- Any other activities that a person reasonably believes to be a violation of a law or regulation
Take note that the Labor Code protects you even if you are incorrect about a violation, so long as you have reasonable cause to believe a violation has occurred. That means an employer cannot fire you, demote you, or take any other adverse employment action against you for reporting a practice that you reasonably believe is illegal, even if it turns out you are wrong.
What Constitutes Illegal Retaliation
Retaliation often takes the form of termination from employment, but that is not the only way retaliation can happen. All of the following actions could constitute illegal retaliation for blowing the whistle on your employer:
- Getting frozen out of projects
- Having responsibilities taken away from you without a change in your job title
- Being blocked for promotion
- Suffering verbal or physical assaults in the workplace
- Having your pay reduced or becoming ineligible for bonuses or other benefits
- Being subject to a rumor campaign or other negative workplace gossip
- Losing access to superiors or other employees
- Physical relocation within a workplace or to a different workplace
- Having your job suddenly become more difficult to perform
- Being called a snitch, a rat, a traitor, or suffering similar insults
- Having your reputation called into question within your profession or occupation
This is not a complete list. There is, unfortunately, no end to the negative actions an employer can take against an employee if motivated to do so to get back at the employee for disclosing information about a legal or regulatory violation.
A rule of thumb any employee can follow is that if, after disclosing information you have reasonable cause to believe constitutes a violation of a law or regulation, you sense you are out of favor at work, then you may have a claim for retaliation and should speak with a whistleblower retaliation lawyer right away.
What Damages and Other Relief May Be Available
Whistleblowers who suffer workplace retaliation can sustain a wide variety of financial, reputational, emotional, and sometimes physical injuries. All of these damages, in one form or another, may serve as the basis for monetary damages or other forms of legal relief. Among the more common damages and remedies a victim of whistleblower retaliation may seek are:
- Lost wages and back pay
- Reinstatement to a former job position
- Damages for defamation or retaliation
- Injunctive relief to stop a specific practice or activity from happening in your workplace
- Damages for any kind of physical and/or emotional injury inflicted by the retaliation
There is, of course, no guarantee of recovering compensation in any legal action. Whistleblower retaliation cases can require a significant investment of time and emotional energy. In our experience at Greene Broillet & Wheeler, when our clients have done the right thing by blowing the whistle, they often find their efforts were worth it.
Questions to Ask Yourself if You Are Contemplating Blowing the Whistle
If you have not yet blown the whistle on what you believe is an illegal practice at your workplace, then the questions below may help you decide what to do. But make no mistake: These are common-sense observations, not legal advice. At Greene Broillet & Wheeler, we encourage anyone contemplating whether to blow the whistle to speak with an attorney immediately. Becoming a whistleblower is a courageous act, but you should also take care to look before you leap.
Potential whistleblowers may find some benefit in asking themselves:
- “Have I observed the violation I’m thinking of disclosing?” Having firsthand knowledge of a violation of laws or regulations at work isn’t necessarily a requirement, but to have reasonable cause to believe a violation has occurred often requires something more than a gut feeling.
- “Have others observed it, too?” As above, it’s not a requirement that other people have witnessed the violation you believe has occurred, but it helps to know whether you can identify others who share your suspicions or experiences.
- “Can I generally identify the law or regulation I think was violated?” No one expects you to be a legal expert, but many employees have a working knowledge of the laws and regulations that govern how they do their jobs. Often times, the law is simply common sense. So even if you can’t specifically identify the law or regulation, if you think it may be a violation, consult an attorney.
- “What evidence exists of the violation?” Evidence takes many forms: eyewitnesses, paper records, electronic records, or physical materials. Does evidence exist for the violation you suspect has occurred? Where is it stored? Who has access to it?
- “Did I participate in the violation?” Many people fear their own participation in acts they reasonably believe were legal violations will make it impossible for them to blow the whistle on the wrongdoing. It doesn’t. In fact, becoming a whistleblower could form the smartest and safest decision those people make, because speaking out could give them a measure of legal protection, whereas staying silent could further implicate them in illegal conduct.
After having contemplated these questions and reached the personal conclusion that you have reasonable cause to believe a violation of law or regulation has occurred, speak with an experienced whistleblower rights attorney to decide what to do next.
Tips for Those Who Have Already Blown the Whistle
Some people come to us at Greene Broillet & Wheeler seeking legal help only after they have become a whistleblower and have experienced what they believe is retaliation. That’s fine, too. The important thing is that these people seek legal advice before going any further. In advance of a meeting with us, we encourage anyone who has already blown the whistle to:
- Keep records documenting how and to whom you blew the whistle and of any actions of retaliation
- Avoid storing those records at your workplace or on work-issued devices, if at all possible
- Prepare a list of those who witnessed the violations you disclosed and those who have participated in any retaliatory actions
- Learn about (but until you consult an attorney, don’t necessarily engage in) your workplace options for complaining about the retaliation. Human resources departments often work to protect the company, not its employees.
The sooner you speak with an experienced whistleblower rights attorney after blowing the whistle, the better. Your legal rights depend in part on the circumstances of how and to whom you blew the whistle, what the facts of the violation were that you blew the whistle about, and what your employer has done in retaliation. An experienced whistleblower rights attorney can help you take careful steps to preserve all of your rights to compensation and other relief, while also protecting you from further retaliation and/or investigation.
Call Our Experienced, Skilled Whistleblower Rights and Retaliation Attorneys Today
As we’ve detailed above, whistleblowers have significant rights under California law. However, to make the most of those rights, and to protect themselves from other legal complications, whistleblowers need sophisticated, diligent, well-resourced attorneys by their side through every step of the process of disclosing a violation and pursuing compensation.
Few law firms in the country can match Greene Broillet & Wheeler’s experience and reputation for advocating on behalf of plaintiffs who suffered adverse employment actions. We have the resources and know-how to go up against the largest and most well-funded defendants. Do not settle for anything less than California’s best whistleblower rights and retaliation attorneys. Contact Greene Broillet & Wheeler today online or by phone at (310) 576-1200 to schedule a free, confidential consultation. We serve clients in Los Angeles and throughout California, and we consult with attorneys nationwide.