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Whistleblower Retaliation Claims

A whistleblowing claim occurs when an individual makes a formal complaint about fraudulent or illegal conduct that is perpetrated against the federal government or a state or local government.  In many cases, the individual who blows the whistle does so against their own employer, which sometimes causes the employer to retaliate against the employee. Should retaliation occur, the employee may then file a separate whistleblower discrimination action (also known as a “whistleblower complaint”) against their employer. Most laws that provide a cause of action for whistleblowers also provide them protection from retaliation.

What Actions Constitute “Retaliation” Against Whistleblowers?

Retaliation” is somewhat of a vague term and can encompass a variety of behaviors that could mean different things to different people. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (part of the Department of Labor, which enforces many federal whistleblower laws), defines “retaliation” as any “adverse action against workers.” Some examples of actions that OSHA considers to be adverse include:

  • Termination of employment
  • Blacklisting
  • Demotion
  • Denial of promotion
  • Disciplining
  • Denial of benefits
  • Failure to hire or rehire
  • Intimidation or harassment
  • Making threats against the employee
  • Reassigning the employee less desirable tasks
  • Reducing the employee’s pay or hours

Legal Remedies for Whistleblower Retaliation

2As such, many of the above whistleblower laws provide legal remedies to the injured party when an employer retaliates against a whistleblower. The specific remedies vary by statute, but some of the most common remedies are:

  • Reinstatement of employment
  • Emotional distress damages and damages for reputational harm
  • Reversal of adverse actions (such as restoration of the employee’s original position after a demotion, removal of demerits, etc.)
  • Back pay
  • Front pay (the employee’s expected earnings had they not been terminated)
  • Consequential damages (expenses incurred as a result of the adverse action, such as job search costs, medical bills, etc.)
  • Punitive damages

Some remedies can be even more severe. For example, willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act can result in criminal fines of up to $10,000 and six months in prison. For more detailed information about the remedies and damages available in your case, contact a California whistleblower attorney.

What Kinds of Rewards Do Whistleblowers Receive in a Lawsuit?

Most whistleblower statutes provide an incentive for individuals to come forward and disclose useful information by sharing a percentage of the profits with them. For example, if an employee provided the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with accurate information that her employer had defrauded the government of $3 million and the statute authorized a reward of 10%, the employee would receive $300,000. The exact percentage amount of reward varies from statute to statute but is generally anywhere from 15-30%. Keep in mind, however, that the quality of information the whistleblower provides can affect the amount of his or her reward. Generally, information that is fresher and more useful to the government and that involves larger sums of money will result in larger reward percentages.

Contact a California Whistleblower Attorney Today for Confidential Assistance 

Though many employees may feel intimidated at the thought or being a whistleblower, state and federal laws offer strong protection. If you face retaliation, it is within your rights to file a legal claim and possibly receive compensation. For a free and confidential consultation with a California lawyer about your possible case, please call us at 415-441-8669 or toll free at 888-503-8267 or send an email to or under the Contact Us portion of this website.

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