California employees often have access to a lot of information about their employers’ business. They may have access to financial records, to business dealings and contracts and to other important information. In many cases, this information is necessary to legally run the business.
However, there are times when employees learn of illegal conduct taking place within the business. In these cases, the employee may choose to report the illegal activity to law enforcement or some governmental agency or to their superior within the business. These employees are considered whistleblowers and are then afforded certain protections.
In particular, these employees cannot be fired in retaliation for whistleblowing. Under employment laws, an employer who fires an employee for whistleblowing has committed a wrongful termination. Wrongfully terminated employees may have the right to file suit and obtain compensation as a result of the termination.
Recently, a former California city attorney has sued alleging that she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for an investigation into illegal activity. According to the employee, she was investigating a series of payments by the city to plumbing companies. The woman claims that the city was approving the use of public funds to repair private sewer lines damaged by trees. According to the woman, between 2002 and 2012 these payments cost more than $10 million. Furthermore, the woman suspected that someone was receiving kickbacks in this scheme and she claims that it was furthered by false statements and other financial irregularities.
The woman says that this investigation eventually led to a demotion and termination. Once the woman was demoted, the investigation was shut down. The city maintains that they did nothing wrong.
By bringing a suit against a former employee, whistleblowers that have been wrongfully terminated, like the woman in this case, can obtain some justice and hold their employer accountable.
Source: KQED, “S.F. Lawyer Claims She Was Fired for Investigating Suspected Payment Scam,” July 3, 2014