You may have heard the term whistleblower and wondered what it means. In the employment context, an employee who “blows the whistle,” or reports illegal acts is protected from retaliation by their employer. But other actions, in addition to reporting illegal acts, often fall under the general category of whistleblower claims. Employees in California are protected by a number of state statutes which prohibit an employer from terminating employees for protected acts taken by the employee. For example, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 (Cal-OSHA) (Lab C §§6300-6718) prohibits employers from terminating employees for complaining about work place safety or participating in or testifying in proceedings under Cal-OSHA. An employer in California may violate California’s labor code if it terminates an employee for refusing to perform an illegal act. Employers are also prohibited from acting to prevent employees from reporting violations of local, state, or federal laws, regulation or rules to the government or an appropriate enforcement agency or retaliating against them for making a report. State employees in California are protected by the California Whistleblower Protection Act (CWPA) (Govt C §§8547-8547.12) which prohibits retaliation against employees who disclose “waste, fraud, abuse of authority, violation of law, or threat to public health.” Govt C §8547.1. Finally, an employer cannot terminate an employee for a reason that is contrary to public policy. The public policy must be contained within a constitutional provision, statute or regulation, beneficial to the public, and fundamental, substantial and well established. Generally, an employee may have a claim for termination in violation of public policy if they are terminated for refusing to commit an illegal act, reporting illegal actions or participating in a government investigation. Wrongful termination in violation of public policy claims often overlap with California state statutes. Whether you are a whistleblower is a very fact specific determination. Seeking the advice of an experienced employee side employment attorney is a good idea after termination if you think you were terminated because you “blew the whistle.” Getting advice before termination or before you become a whistleblower can also be very helpful. An experienced employment attorney can help you make the right choices to protect you, your job, and the health and safety of your fellow employees and the public.