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Employees: If you were fired because your employer mistakenly believed that you were engaged in whistleblowing, you may have a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy

By Helaina L. Chinn, Esq.

California law prohibits retaliation by an employer against an employee for whistleblowing. In creating this law, the Legislature found that it serves an important public policy to encourage employees to alert the appropriate authorities when the employee reasonably thinks his or her employer is breaking the law.

In a recent case, Diego v. Pilgrim United Church of Christ, the California Court of Appeal confirmed this protection for whistleblowers, but went further, and held that even employees who are terminated because their employer “perceived” that they engaged in whistleblowing are subject to protection.

For example, in Diego, a preschool employer fired its preschool director, Cecilia Diego, because the school believed that Diego had made an anonymous complaint to Licensing. Even though the employee had not made the complaint (and thus was not a whistleblower), the court held that public policy protects an employee who is retaliated against by her employer for perceived whistleblowing, regardless of whether the employee actually engaged in whistleblowing.

If you have experienced retaliation in your workplace because you were a whistleblower, or because your employer believed you were a whistleblower (even if you weren’t), you may have a case against your employer. For more information about your rights, and a free consultation, please call us at (619) 342-8000.