HR Management & Compliance

When is an Employee a Whistleblower?

California law provides broad protection to employees who are
whistleblowers. But how do you know when an employee is blowing the
whistle? And what should you do once the whistle has been blown?

Generally, a whistleblower is someone who reports a violation—or
what he or she believes in good faith to be a violation—of federal,
state, or local laws or regulations. There are two basic categories of
whistleblowers: those who complain to management, and those who
complain to a government agency or law enforcement official.

Learn when and how to investigate whistleblower and other employee
complaints by ordering a CD recording of our recent in-depth audio
conference: Internal Investigations in California: How to Uncover the Truth Without Breaking the Law.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who make
harassment, discrimination, and wage and hour complaints even if the
employee only describes unlawful acts without making any kind of formal
complaint. Under the California Labor Code, public employees who
complain to managers or supervisors of a violation of any federal or
state law or regulation are also protected from retaliation.

Employees who complain of unlawful activity to government agencies
or law enforcement officials are also whistleblowers, and are protected
from employer retaliation by a number of federal and state laws,
including: the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the California Whistleblower
Protection Act, Cal-OSHA, and the California Labor Code, among many

Join us this fall in San Francisco for the California Employment Law Update
conference, a 3-day event that will teach you everything you need to
know about new laws and regulations, and your compliance obligations,
for the year ahead—it’s one-stop shopping at its best.

Under all whistleblower protection laws, employers that retaliate
against employees who have blown the whistle can find themselves facing
steep fines, as well as owing employees backpay and other damages.
Whether you receive a complaint directly from an employee, or notice of
a complaint from a government agency, it’s important you know when and
how to investigate. For HR professionals, this can be particularly
tricky if the complaint is that upper management has violated the law.

We’ll have a step-by-step guide to recognizing and responding to whistleblower complaints in a future issue of CEA.

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