Whistleblower protection laws are important for protecting workers, and they can be a crucial part in helping to keep the public informed about what is going on at public agencies. A recent wrongful termination lawsuit by a former member of a California police department helps illustrate why.
The suit was filed by a former captain in the Vallejo Police Department. He says he was fired in retaliation after he reported misdeeds by high officials in the department. This type of retaliation is illegal under whistleblower protection laws.
Bent rules, discrimination and violence
As part of the lawsuit, the former captain testified about the alleged wrongdoings that he had reported before being fired. Among other things, he said that the department failed to investigate misconduct by police officers, and in fact promoted the officers who were accused of the most violent misbehavior.
In one unforgettable detail, he said that the then-chief of the department lowered testing requirements so that the head of the police union could pass a sergeant’s exam he needed in order to be promoted. Before the chief intervened, the man claimed, an officer had to score at least 70% on the test. The police union leader allegedly complained that he couldn’t make the grade, and got the police chief to take away the 70% requirement.
Media attention on the lawsuit brought up a long history of allegations against the police department, many of them involving the same individuals.
The case helps illustrate why whistleblower protection laws are so important. The public should know when police departments and other public agencies are breaking the law. Because of this public interest, workers are protected from retaliation after they lawfully report illegal and unsafe behavior.
When workers file wrongful termination claims in these situations, they aren’t just standing up for their own rights, they’re standing up for the rights of other workers like them, and they’re standing up for the public.