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PG&E Ordered to Pay Due to Retaliation in Employee Whistleblower Case

Posted on in Employment

San Jose whistleblower retaliation lawyerWhen discriminatory actions and policies or unsafe conditions occur on job sites, employees are encouraged to speak out. Unfortunately, many fail to do so out of fear that their employer or manager may retaliate against them. There are laws in place to protect whistleblowers, and a recent case in San Francisco involving utility giant PG&E shows how employers can be held accountable for acting out in any way against these employees. 

PG&E Ordered to Pay Nearly $350,000 in Damages to Employee

When an employee cooperated in an investigation against PG&E over racial problems and spoke out about safety issues in the aftermath of a transformer explosion that occurred in 2015, the utility company responded by firing him. A former electrical maintenance and construction supervisor filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming retaliation was the motive and that the firing was unlawful. After an extensive trial which brought additional safety infractions on the part of the company to light, the Mercury News reported that a San Francisco County Superior Court jury reached a verdict in favor of the worker in July 2018, awarding him more than $341,000 in damages. 

Despite the company’s claims during the trial that they place “public safety first,” this is not the first safety scandal PG&E has been embroiled in. Numerous incidents, including the 2015 explosion and one in 2010 which proved fatal for eight people and destroyed an entire San Bruno neighborhood, have tarnished its reputation. In the aftermath of the 2010 explosion, the company was ordered to pay more than $1.6 billion in penalties and was convicted on felony charges in federal court.  

Protections for Whistleblowers 

The jury award the plaintiff received is intended to make up for the lost wages and other damages he suffered as the result of his retaliatory firing. The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) advises that workers who speak out against discriminatory, illegal, or unsafe practices, known as whistleblowers, are a protected class. As such, they have the right to file a claim and to seek compensation when their rights have been violated. 

Employers are required to provide channels for workers to report unsafe or unfair job conditions, and they are prohibited from taking any type of punitive actions against these workers when they do speak out. Illegal actions may include: 

  • Failing to hire or promote an employee.
  • Demoting an employee or cutting their hours.
  • Attempting to threaten or intimidate an employee to prevent them from filing a claim.
  • Withholding income, benefits, or other types of compensation an employee may be entitled to. 

Contact Us Today for Help

Facing the threat of being fired or other retaliatory actions and harassment for speaking out about conditions on your job is a serious matter. At Jachimowicz Law Group, our skilled San Jose employment law attorneys will act as a strong legal advocate on your side in these situations. Call our office at 408-246-5500 to request a free, confidential consultation to discuss how we can help you. 

Sources:

https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/whistleblowersnotice.pdf

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/07/23/pge-ordered-to-pay-ex-employee-over-safety-racial-issues/

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