California Labor Code § 1102.5 LC prohibits employers from retaliating against whistleblowing employees who inform the government or police about the employer breaking the law. Employers face civil fines of up to $10,000 for each act of retaliation.
The entire statute text reads:
LC 1102.5. (a) An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy preventing an employee from disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, to a person with authority over the employee, or to another employee who has authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or from providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.
(b) An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not retaliate against an employee for disclosing information, or because the employer believes that the employee disclosed or may disclose information, to a government or law enforcement agency, to a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or for providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.
(c) An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not retaliate against an employee for refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation.
(d) An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not retaliate against an employee for having exercised their rights under subdivision (a), (b), or (c) in any former employment.
(e) A report made by an employee of a government agency to their employer is a disclosure of information to a government or law enforcement agency pursuant to subdivisions (a) and (b).
(f) (1) In addition to other remedies available, an employer is liable for a civil penalty not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000) per employee for each violation of this section to be awarded to the employee who was retaliated against. (2) In assessing this penalty, the Labor Commissioner shall consider the nature and seriousness of the violation based on the evidence obtained during the course of the investigation. The Labor Commissioner’s consideration of the nature and seriousness of the violation shall include, but is not limited to, the type of violation, the economic or mental harm suffered, and the chilling effect on the exercise of employment rights in the workplace, and shall be considered to the extent evidence obtained during the investigation concerned any of these or other relevant factors.
(g) This section does not apply to rules, regulations, or policies that implement, or to actions by employers against employees who violate, the confidentiality of the lawyer-client privilege of Article 3 (commencing with Section 950) of, or the physician-patient privilege of Article 6 (commencing with Section 990) of, Chapter 4 of Division 8 of the Evidence Code, or trade secret information.
(h) An employer, or a person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not retaliate against an employee because the employee is a family member of a person who has, or is perceived to have, engaged in any acts protected by this section.
(i) For purposes of this section, “employer” or “a person acting on behalf of the employer” includes, but is not limited to, a client employer as defined in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 2810.3 and an employer listed in subdivision (b) of Section 6400.
(j) The court is authorized to award reasonable attorney’s fees to a plaintiff who brings a successful action for a violation of these provisions.
California Labor Code 1102.5 LC forbids employers from retaliating against an employee who:
- refuses to break the law;
- provides information about the employer to the government if the employee reasonably believes that the employer is violating the law or a regulation; or
- has family who provided information to the government about the employer breaking the law.
Common examples of employer retaliation include:
- firing the employee;
- demoting the employee;
- denying the employee a promotion; and/or
- reducing wages
Example: John tells OSHA that his employer refuses to remove asbestos from its office in violation of federal law. Upon finding out, John’s employer fires him. John could sue his employer for violating LC 1102.5 and wrongful termination.
Employers who retaliate against employees in violation of LC 1102.5 face a civil penalty of up to $10,000 if the employer is either a:
- corporation, or
- limited liability company.
If the employee wins a whistleblower lawsuit against the employer, the court can order the employer to pay the employee’s attorney’s fees.1
What do I do if my employer retaliated against me for whistleblowing?
You can file a retaliation/discrimination complaint with the California Labor Commissioner, which will investigate the matter and take corrective measures if it finds that you have been wronged. You usually have only one year from the retaliation to file this complaint.2
You also may be able to file a traditional lawsuit, though this is a more involved process.
In either event, consult with a labor law attorney to discuss your options and how to get the maximum financial settlement.
Can I be fired if I was wrong about my employer breaking the law?
If you reasonably believed that your employer was violating the law when you reported them to the government, then your employer may not retaliate against you. In short, as long as you blew the whistle in good faith, you cannot be fired, demoted, etc.3
How do I prove that I was retaliated against?
If your whistleblowing retaliation case goes to trial, you have the initial burden to demonstrate “by a preponderance of the evidence” that your whistleblowing was a contributing factor in your boss’s adverse actions against you.
A common example is showing that you were fired, demoted, or otherwise “punished” shortly after the boss learned of your whistleblowing. Other typical evidence may include witnesses, memos, or emails that indicate your boss was unhappy with you for reporting them to the government.
Once you meet this initial burden of proof, your employer then has to show by clear and convincing evidence that you would have been fired, demoted, etc. even if the whistleblowing never occurred. If your employer fails to meet this burden, then you should win your trial.4
See our related article on whistleblower protections for employees who report wage/hour violations (LC 98.6).
- California Labor Code 1102.5 – Employee’s right to disclose information to government or law enforcement agency; Employer prohibited from retaliation; Civil penalty; Confidential communications. Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc. (Cal. 2022), 289 Cal. Rptr. 3d 572, 503 P.3d 659, 12 Cal. 5th 703; Scheer v. Regents of University of California (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 2022), 291 Cal. Rptr. 3d 822, 76 Cal. App. 5th 904.
- How to file a retaliation/discrimination complaint, California Labor Commissioner.
- Same. See, for example, Mize-Kurzman v. Marin Community College Dist. (, 2012)
- California Labor Code 1102.6.