What Qualifies Someone As A Whistleblower?
By Corey Hanrahan
What qualifies someone as a whistleblower? The question about the status of someone as a “whistleblower” is pretty straight forward generally – a whistleblower is essentially someone who engages in “whistleblowing” activities (which means the employee disclosed information to certain government agencies, someone with authority over the employee, or authority to investigate, discover, or correct the employer’s violation). The report must disclose a violation of a state or federal statute, or the violation of noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation. And it is important to note, the disclosing of the information supporting the legal violation does not need to be part of the employee’s job duties.
“…it is important to note, the disclosing of the information supporting the legal violation does not need to be part of the employee’s job duties…“
Additionally, to be considered a protected whistleblower, the employee does not even need to be correct or prove that the underlying conduct constituted a legal violation. It is sufficient that the employee simply have reasonable cause to believe that the information disclosed constitutes a violation. This broadens the protection for whistleblowers.
The burdens of proof in a whistleblower claim are also unique. Once a whistleblower establishes that the retaliation was a contributing factor in a challenged employment action, the burden shifts to the employer to demonstrate by a higher evidentiary standard that it would have taken the same action against the employee for legitimate, independent reasons even had the employee not blown the whistle.
And many employers will try to claim that the whistleblower was simply an angry, aggrieved employee who was looking to settle the score. However, that simply does not matter. California law is very clear that if the whistleblower has a reasonable suspicion that a violation of a constitutional, statutory or regulatory provision is occurring (or has occurred), the whistleblower’s motivation for reporting that conduct is irrelevant to whether the disclosure is a protected activity.
If you are believe you have been retaliated against as a whistleblower, contact The Hanrahan Firm for a free consultation to see what we can do for you.