The law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees, by taking any adverse employment action against them, for a wide variety of activities. It is unlawful, for example, for an employer to retaliate against an employee who: (1) reports illegal activity to a government entity (Labor Code Section 1102.5); (2) files a worker’s compensation claim or testifies on behalf of a person who files a worker’s compensation claim (Labor Code Section 132a); (3) reports suspected illegal activity to their superior; (4) files a claim for discrimination or harassment, or who testifies or otherwise supports a claim of discrimination and/or harassment (Government Code Section 12940); (5) reports unsafe working conditions; (6) complains of or reports overtime or other wage and hour violations; (7) exercises any right permitted by statute; (8) retains legal counsel and/or files administrative complaints or lawsuits against his or her employer.
Broadly stated, an employee has the right to complain of illegal behavior by the employer or conduct by the employer which violates the public policy of California. The public policy of California is generally any policy which is articulated by statute or is otherwise closely tethered to a statute or to an otherwise clearly articulated policy of the State of California. Again, identifying the policy at stake and putting together the facts of the case so that the action can be readily identified as retaliatory are tasks that require considerable skill and experience. At Ainley Law, we pride ourselves in having exactly such skill and experience.
The whistleblower claim is a subset of the doctrine of retaliation. In some instances, statutes specifically authorize actions against companies that have defrauded government or otherwise violated state or federal law. An employee who reports illegal conduct to a superior within the company may also state a whistleblower claim if the company subsequently acts against him or her.