“Whistleblowing” is the practice of alerting the authorities when a business is engaging in activities that are illegal. Employees who blow the whistle often believe they are acting in the best interests of themselves and their co-workers, and possibly the company. However, they also cause significant challenges for their employers.
Federal and state laws protect whistleblowers in a wide range of circumstances. If you have a whistleblowing employee in your workplace, it’s important to know exactly what you may and may not do when addressing the problem. Speaking to an experienced employment law attorney can help you take an approach that is tailored to your specific situation.
What to Avoid When an Employee Blows the Whistle
The phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” is often used to mean, “When someone mentions a problem, don’t blame the problem on the person who brought it up.” When it comes to whistleblowers, “don’t shoot the messenger” isn’t just good advice: it’s also the law.
California expanded its whistleblower protections in 2014 to include workers who report violations to managers and in-house authorities, as well as to outside bodies. While guidance on many topics is still unclear and requires the help of a lawyer in specific situations, general guidelines to follow include:
Don’t fire the employee. Firing the employee is likely to be seen as retaliation, which is prohibited by California law.
Don’t take other adverse actions, like demoting the employee or reducing the hours or pay, without talking to your attorney first.
What You Can Do
What can you do when an employee blows the whistle – especially if they are also failing to meet work expectations or causing disruptions in other ways? While California has some of the most employee-friendly whistleblower laws in the nation, there are still steps you can take. Keep these tips in mind:
Document all interactions with the employee carefully, especially when they involve disciplinary actions.
Separate decision-making so that supervisors who make decisions about promotions, raises, and terminations are insulated from those who make decisions about or investigate whistleblower complaints.
Contact your attorney for more specific help.
Experienced Employment Law Attorneys in Southern California
Running a business always presents unique difficulties, and dealing with a whistleblower falls under that scope. It is of great importance to know how you can or cannot deal with the situation. If you’re dealing with a whistleblower at your company, following the advice we’ve laid out may save you from a great deal of legal trouble.
Most important of all, however, is to hire the right attorney who has the experience and knowledge in business law necessary to help guide you through the process.
At CKB VIENNA LLP, our attorneys focus on helping our business clients solve problems, so that they can focus on achieving their business goals. We’ve worked with clients ranging from small family businesses to Fortune 500 companies. To learn more, contact us today by calling 909-980-1040 or filling out our short online form. We have locations in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles: choose the one that is most convenient for you.