A Guide to Federal & State Whistleblower Protection Laws

Author: Nicki Malekadeli
Posted on: April 5, 2019

Whistleblower protection laws present individuals with a safe alternative to the silence that lets negligence and wrongdoing thrive. The law also encourages workers to come forward with crucial evidence for a safer and healthier world for people. Global whistleblower protection agencies have also acknowledged how important it is to establish these regulations as part of an effective anti-corruption framework.

In the U.S., lawmakers have passed numerous state and federal statutes that help whistleblowers and protect them from workplace retaliation. These laws include the following:

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989

The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) provides federal workers with the means of disclosing misconduct and retaliation cases in their departments. It was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1989 to achieve the following:

  • Strengthen and improve protection for federal employee rights
  • Prevent reprisals
  • Help eliminate wrongdoing within the government

The WPA generally applies to the following personalities as they are covered by law for purposes of disclosure and protection from retaliation:

  • Currently employed federal workers
  • Former federal workers
  • Federal job applicants

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012

This federal law enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2012 significantly increased federal whistleblower protection. The WPEA stemmed from the belief that the WPA had weak protections in practice. It introduced the following additional protections:

  • A clarification on the scope of protected disclosures
  • The creation of improved remedies for federal employees who were subjected to employer retaliation
  • The requirement for federal agencies to inform their workers about their rights

The WPEA also requires federal agencies to implement the following:

  • Any nondisclosure policy, form, or agreement must include language that pertains to legal employee disclosure
  • The designation of a Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman

California Whistleblower Laws

California’s whistleblower statutes forbid employer retaliation against workers who disclose suspected violations of state or federal law. The state expresses these laws through various rulings that apply to multiple situations.

The following statutes cover whistleblower protection for employees in the state:

Labor Code 1102.5

Section 1102.5 of the Labor Code forbids employer retaliation against an employee for reporting information about the employer’s potential violation of a particular law or ruling. This section of the law also applies to the disclosure of information about their non-compliance with that statute to any of the following:

  • A government or law enforcement agency
  • An individual who has authority over the worker
  • Another worker who is authorized to investigate or rectify the violation

Moreover, this regulation prohibits employer retaliation against workers for giving information or testifying before any public body that conducts an investigation, a hearing, or an inquiry on a potential violation of or non-compliance with a particular statute or ruling.

Labor Code 1102.5 also forbids employer retaliation against workers for the following grounds:

  • Their whistleblowing activities while working for their previous employer
  • A family member’s whistleblowing activities

Labor Code 98.6

This state ruling protects particular workers who disclose Labor Code violations to the state’s Labor Commissioner. Worker complaints to the Labor Commissioner may involve wage and hour law violations including receiving payment less than the mandated minimum wage.

Under LC 98.6, employers are prohibited from retaliating against the following individuals:

  • Job applicants who filed complaints against their previous employers to the Labor Commissioner
  • Family members of individuals who filed complaints about labor law violations

Labor Code 6310

LC 6310 forbids employers from retaliating against workers who disclose occupational health and safety regulations to the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Employers are also prohibited from whistleblower retaliation against a complainant’s family member.

Government Code 8547 (California Whistleblower Protection Act)

This particular ruling protects state workers who disclose any of the following:

  • Statute, regulation, executive order, or court order violations such as corruption, bribery, or fraud
  • Any condition that can threaten worker or public health and safety
  • Economically wasteful governmental activity
  • Governmental activity that involves gross misconduct, incompetency, or inefficiency

Other Federal & State Laws that Provide Whistleblower Protection

In addition to the laws mentioned earlier, the following federal and state rulings have specific whistleblower provisions for employers and workers:

California False Claims Act

Under the “qui tam” section of this state law, a federal worker can sue their employer for possibly committing fraud or embezzlement regarding government funds. This is done on behalf of the state government. The employee can also sue for qui tam retaliation if their employer retaliates against them.

Fair Employment & Housing Act

This ruling has a whistleblower provision that forbids employer retaliation for opposing or disclosing FEHA violations in the workplace. A lawsuit similar to cases under other whistleblower protection laws can be based on wrongful termination or retaliation under FEHA.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act generally applies to employees working in publicly-traded companies and national statistical rating organizations. If employer retaliation for disclosing suspicious securities fraud to the federal government or a supervisor occurs, the workers are entitled to sue their employer under the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

This federal statute also protects workers who disclose the following:

  • Violations of U.S. SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) rules and regulations
  • Violations of federal statutes regarding fraud against shareholders

Hire an Expert Whistleblower Retaliation Attorney for Legal Assistance

Whistleblower violation cases are complicated and should not be handled on your own. Your employer may be represented by an experienced defense attorney to challenge your claims. Expert whistleblower retaliation lawyers will explain your legal rights to you and help you fight for those rights. They will also brief you on potential consequences that come with your decisions and also prevent unwanted delays in your case and help you move it accordingly.

If you are involved in a whistleblower retaliation suit, Mesriani Law Group has employment attorneys who are well-versed in these types of cases. Our whistleblower retaliation lawyers will make sure that you are given fair compensation for your employer’s unjust actions for penalizing you in participating in protected activity. Consider contacting our office for an initial consultation today.