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An overview of California’s whistleblower laws

| May 13, 2020 | Employment Law |

The False Claims Act came about in 1863 by a Congress concerned that during the Civil War, suppliers of goods to the Union Army were defrauding the government. The act provided that any person who submits false claims is liable for damages plus penalties. Over the years, significant changes to the law increased the amounts of compensations and fines.

As part of the act, employees have the right to file a claim. Under section 3730(h), an employee may receive monetary relief if a reprisal from the employer occurs. California took the federal policy and added laws to give more protection to its residents.

California whistleblower definition

The state of California encourages employees to provide information when they believe their employer is guilty of wrongdoing. California defines the people who file these reports as “whistleblowers.”

Retaliation protection

As with the federal act, California’s Whistleblower Protection Act provides safety from employers’ retaliation. The law protects:

  • An employee who gives a law enforcement agency information of a criminal activity
  • An employee who reports a possible violation of a law or regulation to a supervisor
  • An employee who reports labor law violations to the Labor Commissioner
  • A state employee who files a complaint with the California State Auditor’s Office

The state extends protection to the employee from reprisal by a third party acting on behalf of the employer.

Claim for damages

Employees may file a claim for damages sustained by retaliation. The amount of damages will depend on the case. Damages may include lost wages and benefits, and compensation for mental suffering, physical pain, grief or anxiety. An employee may receive punitive damages to punish the employer if the court finds the employer guilty of oppression, fraud or malice.

The Labor Commissioner may also order the employer to rehire or reinstate the employee’s previous position or pay attorney’s fees incurred during the investigation. The employer may also have to pay interest on lost wages.