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When it comes to whistleblowing, know your rights

Imagine you are at work when you overhear supervisors talking about the latest round of interview candidates. They mention one of the candidates is Muslim, and then agree that someone like that could never work there.

You also notice that certain workers are routinely denied promotions, or they are never hired in the first place. Culturally offensive jokes and comments aimed at certain people are made routinely. The one thing that all of the people targeted in these situations have in common is that they are -- or appear to be -- Muslim. It becomes clear to you that your company may be discriminating against Muslim Americans.

While you want to report this discrimination, you don't want to lose your job. Under these circumstances, it would be wise for you to know your rights regarding whistleblowing.

What to know about whistleblowing protections

California's whistleblower laws were expanded in January 2014. Previously, workers' complaints generally had to be made to government agencies or law enforcement and had to stem from breaches of state or federal rules, not local rules. The protection is much broader now for employees and offers greater protection for violations of various laws, regardless of whether an employee complained to a government agency. California law even bars companies from retaliating against workers who internally report alleged violations of law, either verbally or in writing, directly to their employers, regardless of whether the employee has complained to a government agency or law enforcement. An employer is also prohibited from taking adverse action against workers because it believes they have complained or may complain about a violation of a local, state or federal regulation to a supervisor or co-worker who has authority to investigate. These laws are reflected in the California Labor Code.

Therefore, if you are an employee who properly reports unsafe working environments or legal noncompliance, you are afforded various protections. This includes protection from being fired, loss of benefits, harassment, and other forms of retaliation.

If you decide to act, have legal support in place

There is undoubtedly a lot at stake when it comes to reporting wrongful conduct, such as religious discrimination. Not only are people worried about their own job and future, they are also worried about the potential harm that could be suffered by others because of misconduct.

Before you make any decisions or accept any adverse action from an employer, it can be crucial that you discuss the situation with an employment law attorney. You do not have struggle with these difficult decisions on your own or without the benefit of understanding your rights as a California employee. With legal guidance, you can avoid costly mistakes and seek the protection you deserve.

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