As a matter of policy, the state of California encourages employees who have a good faith belief that their employer is engaging in illegal conduct or activities to report that activity to the proper authority. In furtherance of that policy, whistle blower protection laws make it illegal for an employer to take any adverse employment action against the whistle blower.
Common Violations Revealed by Whistleblowers
Any industry may engage in illegal activity but an employment law attorney in Irvine reports some recurring themes:
- Unsafe working conditions
- Fraud ; for example Medicare and Medicaid billing, government contracts and kickbacks
- Violations of the Environmental Protection Act
- Sexual harassment
Cause of Action
A lawsuit claiming a violation of whistle blower protection laws must allege:
- The employee was engaging in a protected activity by reporting a good faith belief of the illegal conduct
- The employer responded by subjecting the employee to an adverse employment action
- A causal link between the reporting of the conduct and the adverse employment action
Adverse Employment Action
The employer may not take any negative action as retaliation such as:
- Termination (or not hiring a job applicant)
- Poor performance reviews
- Reduce pay or benefits
Damages that may be recovered include lost wages and benefits (in some cases double pay is awarded), emotional distress, reasonable attorney’s fees and punitive damages. Additionally, reinstatement of employment may be ordered.
Special Damages under the False Claims Act
In certain circumstances, the employee may recover a percentage of the money the government recovers as a result of qui tam lawsuits. Qui tam lawsuits, as explained by an employment law attorney in Irvine, typically concern employers who submitted fraudulent invoices to a government agency. The employee may be entitled to 15 – 25% of the total recovery.
Contact an Employment Law Lawyer in Irvine for Legal Counsel
If you believe you have been retaliated against for doing the right thing, be certain you understand your rights and the applicable statute of limitations to file your claim, which can vary from as little as 90 days to several years. Call Altus Law Firm at 949-346-3391.