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Whistleblowing in the workplace

Whistleblower policy is a government program that protects employees who report health, safety, environmental, or other violations committed by their employers.

Gayle Lenore Eskridge | Jul 15, 2019

Labor Code section 1102.5 and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”)

Ross v. County of Riverside In a recent California case, Ross v. County of Riverside, plaintiff, a former deputy district attorney, sued his former County employer for violations of Labor Code section 1102.5 and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), claiming whistleblower retaliation and disability discrimination. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the County, finding that plaintiff could not establish that he engaged in protected activity or that he had a disability recognized under FEHA. The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded. Reversal and Remand Plaintiff disclosed exculpatory evidence to his supervisors at the District Attorney’s Office. In spite of the evidence, the District Attorney’s Office pursued malicious prosecution, and retaliated against plaintiff for reporting the supervisors actions. The Court of Appeal for the Fourth District found that the disclosure of information by plaintiff to his supervisors was a protected activity. In addition, around the same time as the above mentioned incident, Plaintiff began exhibiting neurological symptoms due to a concussion syndrome that required him to undergo treatment and testing. After asking for a lighter caseload with “no stress or deadlines” as an accommodation, plaintiff’s supervisor declined his request. The County requested medical documentation that Plaintiff could not provide. The Court of Appeal held there were triable issues of material fact as to both Plaintiff’s claim that his disclosure was a protected activity under Labor Section 1102.5 and whether he had a disability under FEHA. The court thereby reversed the judgment, remanding the case for further proceedings.

Ryan K. Stumphauzer | Aug 15, 2018

What Incentives and Protections are Available to Whistleblowers Under Federal Law?

What Incentives and Protections are Available to Whistleblowers Under Federal Law? If you have information about a federal crime or a company that has inappropriately taken advantage of a government contract or government benefit program (such as Medicare or Tricare), you may be entitled to protection as a whistleblower under federal law. While there are several laws that provide incentives and protections to whistleblowers, these protections are not absolute, and they do not apply to all types of legal violations. As a result, before blowing the whistle, it is important to speak with an attorney who is experienced in whistleblower litigation, and who can help you take the appropriate steps to receive protection under federal law. The following is a brief overview of some of the types of incentives and protections that are available under federal law: Protection of Anonymity Under the False Claims Act (which is one of several federal laws that provide whistleblower protections), all cases are kept *under seal* for 60 days. This is intended to help ensure that whistleblowers (also called *relators* in qui tam proceedings) are not too intimidated to report violations to the government. After 60 days, the government may choose to lift the seal on your case, or it may extend the period of anonymity until the conclusion of its investigation. Protection Against Retaliation Under the False Claims Act and other federal whistleblower laws, employees who file whistleblower claims are entitled to strong protections against retaliation. These protections not only prohibit your employer from firing you based on the fact that you reported its improper conduct, but also from demoting you, reducing your pay, assigning you to a less-desirable work environment, and taking any other form of adverse employment-related action. However, this does not mean that your employer is prohibited from terminating you for other reasons. If you lose your job for reasons unrelated to your whistleblower claim, then you are not a victim of retaliation. Compensation for Qui Tam Lawsuits without Government Intervention When a whistleblower files a qui tam lawsuit, the federal government has an obligation to investigate the whistleblower*s allegations. Based upon the outcome of its investigation, the government can either intervene in the case and pursue litigation against the alleged wrongdoer, or else allow the whistleblower to pursue a qui tam action independently. If the government declines to intervene in your case and you win a verdict at trial, you could be entitled to as much as 30 percent of the total recovery. Compensation for Qui Tam Lawsuits with Government Intervention If the government intervenes in your case, you are still entitled to compensation if your case is successful. Under the False Claims Act, relators can receive between 15 and 25 percent of the damages awarded to the government. Other whistleblower statutes provide for similar relator compensation. No-Cost Legal Representation Whistleblower attorneys typically represent their clients on a contingency-fee basis. This means that it costs you nothing out of pocket to engage experienced legal representation. If your case is unsuccessful, you will owe nothing. If you receive compensation from the government, your attorney will retain a portion of your award to cover his or her fees and expenses.