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Whistleblower protections dependent on person's role at company

At times, employees in California discover that their employers or clients are engaging in illegal activities. Because disclosure of the evidence could result in someone getting fired, laws have been designed to offer people in this situation whistleblower protection.

In cases that involve violations of rules established by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, an individual could be eligible for legal protection after voluntarily reporting misconduct. The violation could be in the past, ongoing or planned for the future. The information needs to result in an SEC investigation that produces fines against the offending organization above $1 million. Only people can claim whistleblower protection because it does not apply to companies or other entities.

A person's position at a company could influence the application of legal protection for bringing information to authorities. Officers, directors, partners and employees responsible for compliance and auditing qualify under different eligibility rules. Additionally, people employed by a firm to conduct internal investigations or agents of accounting firms have distinctive legal protections. People in these categories could gain whistleblower protection if disclosure will protect the company or investors or prevent a cover-up of misconduct. People who report illegal activity to company officers can approach authorities after their superiors have been aware of the problem for at least 120 days.

Consulting an attorney familiar with employee rights could be an appropriate step for a person concerned about possible illegal activity at work. An attorney could analyze the person's duties and potentially determine eligibility for whistleblower protection. If owners or managers retaliate against a person for lawful acts, an attorney might prepare a lawsuit to challenge the action. Evidence such as suddenly negative evaluations, termination, demotion or change in pay could be filed with the court to pursue the recovery of damages.

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