Proving A Whistleblower Case Just Got Easier
The California Court of Appeals, in Ross v. County of Riverside (Cal. Ct. App. May. 20, 2019), made it much easier for an employee who blows the whistle at work due to a violation of labor law to prove up his or her case. In Ross, an employee disclosed information to people with authority over him which he reasonably believed concerned a violation of, or noncompliance with, federal and state law. The employer was subsequently terminated, and alleges his termination was retaliatory in response to his whistleblowing. In the case, Defendant argued plaintiff's claim should be dismissed because the employee did not disclose to those with authority over him the exact state and/or federal laws believed to be violated. The Court of Appeal held although the plaintiff did not expressly identify specific state or federal laws being violated, that California's whistleblower statute (Labor Code Section 1102.5) does not require such an express statement. Rather, the employee need only disclose or complain of the unlawful conduct as perceived by a lay person.
This court's holding is pragmatic. A lay person may recognize an employer is engaged in what appears to be unlawful activity without the knowledge or resources to identify specific laws, rules and/or regulations being violated. The court found it would be unfair for employees to be protected only where they have the ability to identify one or more specific laws being broken.
Whistleblowing is a complex area of law. Taylor Labor Law, PC handles whistleblowing cases regularly, and our attorneys would be happy to consult with you on your potential whistleblowing matter.