An employee who tries to internally report alleged wrongdoing and is then fired can pursue internal remedies—and then go directly to court with her discharge and retaliation claims.
Recent case: Carolyn, a clinical laboratory director, complained that the lab was violating state and federal laws. She soon found her work criticized and was terminated. Throughout the disciplinary process, she objected to her discharge. When she had exhausted her internal appeals and was finally fired, she went directly to court.
The employer argued she should have complained to the Labor Commissioner; since she did not, she lost her right to sue.
The court disagreed. As long as Carolyn had appealed her discipline internally, she could go to court over her firing. (Satyadi v. West Contra Costa Healthcare, No. A138948, Court of Appeal of California, 2015)