COVID-19 and Whistleblower Protections in California
As COVID-19 case numbers are increasing, so are the numbers of whistleblower and retaliation claims. The coronavirus pandemic has caused a massive influx in the number of workers blowing the whistle on unsafe practices in the workplace. The increase in whistleblower claims has been so drastic that the US Department of Labor issued a reminder to employers that it is illegal to retaliate against workers who report unsafe conditions. If you choose to become a whistleblower at your workplace, federal and state laws protect you from retaliation.
What Is Whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is an employee or agent reporting his or her employer to the authorities because of an unsafe or unhealthy working condition. Examples often have to do with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety regulation violations or breaches of one of California’s state employment laws. Workers have the right to report these problems to try to prevent workplace accidents and employee injuries, especially if they have already complained to their employers without prevail.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many reports from whistleblowers have dealt with breaches of Cal/OSHA and statewide industry guidance. State policies require safety measures to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, such as face coverings in public spaces, physical distancing measures, frequent handwashing and regular disinfection. Cal/OSHA has created specific COVID-19 guidelines for each industry. If your employer is not obeying these guidelines, you have the right to report the company to OSHA out of concern for your safety and that of others. This would make you a whistleblower.
Retaliation Is Illegal During COVID-19 Pandemic
OSHA has over 20 statutes in place protecting whistleblowers from different forms of retaliation. Retaliation can refer to any adverse employment action taken against an employee for reporting dangerous work conditions. Retaliation against a whistleblower for reporting hazards could include job termination, demotions, reductions in pay or hours, schedule changes, relocation, or discrimination. If you face any type of negative repercussions from your employer for blowing the whistle during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may need help from a Los Angeles whistleblower lawyer to understand your rights. Retaliation is illegal during COVID-19 as well as under normal work circumstances.
California Whistleblower Statutes
The California Whistleblower Protection Act gives the state the authority to investigate and act on complaints about illegal or unethical governmental activities. It also protects state employees who blow the whistle from retaliation. Additionally, California Labor Code 1102.5 states that if an employer retaliates against a whistleblower, that employer may have to pay the employee lost wages, lost work benefits and other damages necessary to make the employee whole again. California state laws protect employees from whistleblower retaliation as well as rules that prevent or dissuade employees from reporting safety or health hazards.
Contact a Wrongful Termination Lawyer for Help
If you recently reported your employer in California for an apparent health or safety violation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should not have to worry about retaliation. This is an illegal form of employer misconduct according to state and federal laws. If your employer breaks the law and retaliates against you by firing you, however, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. Contact an LA wrongful termination lawyer for help with your civil claim.
A lawyer can explain your rights as a whistleblower during COVID and help you bring a claim against your employer. Bringing a claim takes filling out and submitting the correct paperwork to the civil courts where you live. Most courtrooms in California are closed to in-person visits and accepting electronic claims instead in light of the pandemic. Next, you may have to defend your standpoint with evidence of your employer’s retaliation. A lawyer could help you gather evidence and present your claim during settlement meetings or a wrongful termination lawsuit. A successful claim to damages could end with compensation for your related losses, including lost income and job benefits. Talk to a lawyer about your case today.