How-to-Safely-Blow-the-Whistle.jpg (2149×1159)Whistleblowers are often the heroes who save companies from themselves. A whistleblower is someone who provides information to law enforcement or regulatory agencies about a business that the whistleblower has observed from the inside engaging in suspected illegal, unsafe, or improper activities. The whistleblower is an irreplaceable source of information to enhance regulatory compliance.


There is considerable danger in the whistleblower role. Often whistleblowers perform their vital function against a lot of pressure, relying on law to protect them. In many cases, whistleblowers have to seek legal counsel to make sure they are well protected. Law enforcement agents often have to rely on whistleblowers to come forward with information they cannot gather themselves. Whistleblowers often instigate actions that could not have been initiated without them.

Cautions and Self-Defense.

Because of the danger of retaliation, it is always best for a someone with damaging information to try to handle his or her case within the organization itself, using whatever communication channels are available. A person with damaging information about a business practice should always assume that the practice is limited to one level of the organization and that senior managers would like to correct it internally. The deeper concern is when senior management is itself implicated in the improper practice.

In one instance, an employee of a large organization found that unqualified people were being promoted for supervisory duties outside of the normal vetting process. This practice was affecting the productivity of the business. He reported these observations to senior management. Then he found that his own performance was being very carefully observed by supervisors and he was soon summarily dismissed for a minor error.

Anyone who observes a practice in their organization that violates the law or an important regulatory standard and has suffered retaliation in an effort to silence the complaint should immediately obtain legal counsel. Where violations of legal standards or laws are the subject of a whistleblower action, the employee can sometimes file a “whistleblower complaint.”

Whistleblower Statutes.

Whistleblower statutes do not cover all unethical or even all illegal business practices. They cover violations of health and safety standards of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), violations of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations and violations of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. The whistleblower protection offered by the SEC and the EPA are narrow in focus.

The filing of whistleblower complaints is itself not always simple. If you are filing a complaint about violations of OSHA standards, you must file the complaint directly to the OSHA within a fixed time of the alleged reprisal. The time limit varies with the statute violated. Filing may be under the OSHA act with both federal and state authorities.

Complaints are filed using the Whistleblower Complaint Form, which can be sent online, by fax or mail. The complaint can also be made through a conversation with the local OSHA office by telephone. The OSHA conducts an interview with each complainant to determine the need for an investigation. If evidence supports the worker’s claim of discrimination, the OSHA will ask the employer to restore the worker’s job, earnings and benefits. The complaints themselves are investigated under a strict protocol.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is authorized by Congress to pay sizable monetary rewards to eligible individuals who provide high-quality whistleblower information where sanctions of over one million dollars are ordered. Whistleblowers can contact the SEC by phone.

The Environmental Protection Agency Whistleblowers Protection Act (2012) provides whistleblower protection for government scientists who challenge censorship of scientific information or who make whistleblower disclosures. EPA whistleblower complaints are handled through the office of a whistleblower ombudsman designated by the EPA Office of the Inspector General.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986