Employees may not be retaliated against for reporting misconduct in the workplace, including mistreatment of other employees and illegal business practices by the employer.
California law prohibits employment retaliation and provides significant penalties for employees who engage in such activity. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (known as “FEHA”) prohibits an employer from retaliating against any person who has “opposed any practices” prohibited by FEHA or who has filed a complaint or testified or assisted in any legal proceeding under FEHA. (Government Code § 12940(h).)
FEHA’s retaliation provision applies to “employers,” which is defined as “any person regularly employing five or more persons, or any person acting as an agent of an employer.” (Government Cod §§12926(d), 12940(h).) FEHA claims can also be made against labor organizations and employment agencies. (Government Code § 12940(h).)
In addition to FEHA, Labor Code § 98.6(a) prohibits an employer from discriminating, retaliating, or taking any adverse action (for example firing, demoting, threatening to fire, suspending, failing to hire, failing to select for a training program leading to employment) against an employee or applicant for doing any of the following:
- Engaging in conduct described in Labor Code §§ 79–107 (e.g., engaging in political activities);
- Filing a lawsuit or complaint with the Labor Commissioner;
- Making a written or oral complaint that the employee is owed unpaid wages;
- Filing an action or notice under Labor Code § 2699, California’s Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (known as “PAGA”), or testifying or being about to testify in a PAGA proceeding;
- Exercising any rights under the Labor Code.
As a potential whistleblower, you should consult with an attorney to help you consider your options and the potential consequences of reporting misconduct by your employer. Lebe Law will advise you on the variety of laws that protect employees against being fired, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed or otherwise retaliated against for complaining about or reporting illegal activity.