It would be nice if you could trust people with power and prestige to always behave in accordance with the law. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. California employers may try to get away with misconduct such as illegal dumping of hazardous waste, discriminatory hiring, sexual harassment or any number of other unethical activities.

If you witness your employer conducting illegal activity, you have a responsibility to report it to the proper authorities. This is known as whistleblowing. The prospect of becoming a whistleblower may be frightening. You may fear that your employer will punish you in some way, perhaps by dismissing you from your job. According to FindLaw, however, there are legal protections available to you if whistleblowing costs you your employment.

Under California law, your employer cannot fire you for reporting workplace misconduct or violations of the law. If your employer does dismiss you, you have the right to seek monetary damages, and your employer could face fines or jail time. However, you have a limited timeframe of two years in which to file a general whistleblowing claim.

Regardless of whether you are a public or private sector worker, there are also federal laws in place to protect you from retaliation by your employer subsequent to whistleblowing. If the misconduct you reported in the first place relates to health or safety violations, you should inquire with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration about filing a claim regarding your employer’s retaliation. Protected activity under OSHA rules is wide-ranging and even extends to whistleblowing about SEC rule violations and corporate fraud.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.