Gregory (Greg) Keating, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Boston office, was quoted in SHRM, in “California Whistleblower Protections Apply to Tips Already Known by Employers,” by Leah Shepherd.

Following is an excerpt:

California workers who report violations of the law to their supervisors can qualify for whistleblower protections, even if the employer already knew about the violations, the California Supreme Court recently ruled. …

The purpose of California's whistleblower law is "to protect workers, to encourage disclosure, and to promote compliance with employment-related laws and regulations," the court said. An employee "may reasonably feel more willing to approach an employer about workplace safety hazards, unpaid wages, or overtime violations knowing that his or her co-workers were also disclosing the same unlawful activity. An employer may also be more likely to ameliorate violations, and less able to sweep them under the rug, when multiple employees have disclosed the same wrongdoing." …

Employers Must 'Be Much More Vigilant'

The case shows why businesses should not make adverse employment decisions quickly or rashly, especially against an employee who has made a complaint.

Companies should "be much more vigilant about having their antenna up, having multiple reporting channels and treating every concern as if it needs to be investigated and remediated," said Greg Keating, an attorney with Epstein Becker Green in Boston. "Invest in really robust HR practices so you take every complaint seriously." …

Federal and State Laws Expand in Scope

Different federal laws apply to different types of whistleblowing. The Whistleblower Protection Act protects federal employees and federal contractors who disclose legal violations, while the Dodd-Frank Act protects individuals who assist with prosecution of securities and commodities fraud. As part of last year's omnibus spending bill, Congress passed the Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Improvement Act, which increased rewards whistleblowers can receive for reporting money laundering. In addition, the IRS whistleblower program protects individuals who assist with prosecution of tax fraud.

State laws on whistleblower protections are changing rapidly, and the trend is toward affording greater protections for disclosures about broader categories of conduct, Keating said.

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