What are the elements of a whistleblower retaliation case in California?

Michael J. Faber

Answered by:
Michael J. Faber

Located in Los Angeles, CA
Attorney at Law

Michael J. Faber - Employment Litigation - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Michael J. Faber

Attorney at Law
Los Angeles, CA
Phone: 310-442-6610
Fax: 310-442-6612

View Profile

In California, there are two principal statutes which are designed to protect whistleblowers from retaliation in the workplace. These are Labor Code §1102.5 and Labor Code §6310.

Section 1102.5 prohibits retaliation against any employee for disclosing information, or because the employer believes that the employee disclosed or may disclose information, to a government or law enforcement agency, or to a superior in the employer's organization, so long as the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of law or regulation.

Section 6310 is similar, but relates specifically to health and safety matters in the workplace.

It is important to note that in 2014 the Legislature amended §1102.5 to protect not only actual whistleblowers, but also those who an employer fears may be a future whistleblower. And, it also covers internal whistleblowers, both actual and potential. 

Also, because plaintiffs rarely have direct evidence of retaliatory intent, they may prove retaliation by indirect or circumstantial evidence, Mokler v. Cty. of Orange, 157 Cal. App.4th 121 (2007); Morgan v. Regents of the University of California 88 Cal.App.4th 52, 67–68 (2000).

Typically, it is the timing of events, coupled with other factors, that gives rise to an inference of retaliatory intent. Thus, in Colarossi v. Coty U.S. Inc., 97 Cal.App.4th 1142 (2002) the court held: “Circumstantial evidence typically relates to such factors as the plaintiff's job performance, the timing of events, and how the plaintiff was treated in comparison to other workers.” 97 Cal.App.4th at 1153.

Labor Code §6310 is similar in many ways to §1102.5, and the two often are pleaded together. Under Labor Code §6310, it is unlawful to terminate someone for complaining about health and safety issues in the workplace, or out of apprehension that that person might complain to governmental authorities about such issues. Hentzel v. Singer Co., 138 Cal.App.3d 290 (1982); Lujan v. Minagar, 124 Cal.App.4th 1040 (2004); Skilsky v. Lucky Stores, 893 F.2d 1088 (9th Cir. 1990). 

A person who has been retaliated against in violation of these important statutes may be entitled to recover monetary damages, including lost earnings, emotional distress damages, and sometimes punitive damages. These statutes provide important protections for California employees, and are powerful tools to secure workplace rights.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

Other Answers About Employment Law - Employee

Employment Law - Employee

Is my noncompete agreement enforceable in Ohio?

Everyone has the right to employment. The first thing to do to determine if a noncompete agreement is enforceable is to read it carefully and to …

Answered by: Robert J. Dubyak

Employment Law - Employee

When must my employer allow leave in New Jersey?

There are various circumstances which may compel employers in New Jersey to provide a leave of absence.  Under certain circumstances, employers …

Answered by: Adam J. Kleinfeldt

Employment Law - Employee

Are Georgia Employers Required To Pay Overtime?

Workers who go the extra mile for their employers should receive full compensation for the hours they work. This includes any overtime pay they are …

Answered by: Michael Caldwell


If you send a lawyer or law firm email through this service, your email will not create an attorney-client relationship and will not necessarily be treated as privileged or confidential. You should not send sensitive or confidential information via this email service. The lawyer or law firm to whom you are writing may not choose to accept you as a client. Moreover, as the Internet is not necessarily a secure environment it is possible that your email sent via the Internet might be intercepted and read by third parties. Super Lawyers will not retain a copy of this message.

Page Generated: 1.9403638839722 sec