“Blowing the whistle”

A claim may arise from an employee’s “blowing the whistle” on conduct by the employer. An employer may be liable if it terminates or retaliates against an employee for performing an act that is in the public interest or for refusing to perform an act that public policy condemns.

Thus, a claim for retaliation arises where an employer:

•Terminates an employee for refusing to violate the law;

•Terminates an employee for performing a statutory obligation, such as reporting a safety violation;

•Terminates an employee for exercising a statutory right or privilege; or

•Terminates an employee for reporting to governmental authorities an alleged violation of a right or privilege granted by law, such as when an employee is terminated in retaliation for complaining about discrimination.

Further, under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, it is unlawful for an employer to demote, suspend, terminate or harass any employee because that employee has engaged in protected activities. Such protected activities include protesting, complaining about, resisting or otherwise “opposing” discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, sex, disability, national origin, age, or religion. Retaliation by the employer is prohibited whether the employee is opposing harassment or discrimination directed against him/her or another employee.

The protection from retaliation is the same whether it turns out that the original complaint was valid or not, so long as the employee had a reasonable belief that what he/she was complaining about was unlawful.

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