There are numerous laws that protect whistleblowers (i.e., an employee who reports employer wrongdoing to a government or law enforcement agency … and depending on the law, it even applies to reporting to a supervisor of the employee or officer of the employer). Below is an overview of just a few.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act prohibits an employer whose securities must be registered under federal securities laws (i.e., publicly-traded stocks or bonds) from discharging, discriminating against or retaliating against an employee for reporting employer conduct the employee “reasonably believes” violates federal securities, mail fraud, wire fraud or bank fraud laws or for assisting an SEC investigation.
The federal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) enables the SEC to pay awards to whistleblowers who provide the SEC with original information about violations of the federal securities laws that lead to a successful SEC enforcement action resulting in monetary sanctions of more than $1,000,000. Under Dodd-Frank, “(n)o employer may discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, directly or indirectly, or in any other manner discriminate against, a whistleblower in the terms and conditions of employment because of” certain types of protected conduct.
The federal Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits persons with authority over personnel actions from taking or failing to take a personnel action in retaliation for specified actions by the employee or applicant. Protected activities include disclosing information the employee or applicant reasonably believes evidences (a) a violation of any law, rule or regulation, or (b) gross mismanagement, waste, abuse of authority or substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. This applies only if the disclosure is not prohibited by law, and not required by Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of nation defense or the conduct of foreign affairs.
California Labor Code section 1102.5, forbids retaliation if the employee disclosed (or the employer believes he/she disclosed or may disclose) information to certain government agencies (or to those with authority over the employee, or authority to investigate/discover/correct the employer’s violation or noncompliance), or for providing information to, or testifying 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.
The California Fair Pay Act (Labor Code 1197.5(k)(1)) prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who disclose their own wages, discuss the wages of their co-workers or inquire about another employee’s wages.
California Labor Code section 6310 prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who: (1) make oral or written complaints regarding employee safety or health to government agencies, their employer or their representative; (2) institute or testify in safety or health related proceedings; or (3) refuse to perform work in an unsafe or unhealthy environment that creates a real or apparent hazard to the employee or the employee’s co-workers.
California Health & Safety Code section 1278.5 forbids health care facilities (e.g., hospitals, etc.) from discriminating or retaliating against any employee (or patient or member of its medical staff) for presenting a grievance or complaint to an accrediting agency or other governmental entity, or for cooperating in an investigation or proceedings related to the quality of care, services or conditions at the facility.