California Whistleblower Protection Act

The state of California recognizes the value whistleblowers bring to the recovery of state funds and enacted the California Whistleblower Protection Act to encourage employees to come forward. Our team of skilled whistleblower attorneys can explain how this act applies to your situation and help protect your rights. 

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    What is the California Whistleblower Protection Act?

    The California Whistleblower Protection Act provides state employees with guidance and protections for reporting violations of the California False Claims Act. The act establishes the following:

    • Prohibition on whistleblower retaliation, reprisal and discrimination
    • An investigative public body
    • Prohibition on the use of official capacity for undue influence or personal gain

    Who does the act protect?

    California whistleblower laws protect the following employees who report wrongdoing to law enforcement agencies:

    What is a protected disclosure?

    A protected disclosure is a good faith communication to the California State Auditor’s Office or the Commission on Judicial Performance that discloses evidence of improper governmental activity or activity that significantly threatens public health or safety.

    What is retaliation?

    The California State Auditor defines retaliation as any of the following:

    • Intimidation
    • Demotion or denial of a promotion
    • Threat of disciplinary action
    • Poor performance evaluation
    • Involuntary transfer
    • Wrongful termination
    • Any form of disciplinary action

    Can I submit a whistleblower complaint anonymously?

    The California State Auditor is required to provide a means to report wrongdoing via mail and internet portal. In either case, the California State Auditor may request information about your identity, but you are not required to disclose it.

    Who investigates allegations of noncompliance with the act?

    California State Auditor

    The California State Auditor is the primary investigative body for reports of improper government activities. If the employee is deemed to be potentially in violation of state whistleblower protection law, the California State Auditor sends the file to the appointing power for further investigation.

    The appointing power has 60 days to impose disciplinary action or provide the California State Auditor with a letter of explanation.

    If appropriate, the California State Auditor also sends the report to the supervising state agency and the State Attorney General

    State Personnel Board

    The State Personnel Board receives a copy of any Notice of Adverse Action sent to the employee and maintains records of disciplinary actions. The State Personnel Board also receives and investigates retaliation complaints. The board then must provide recommendations based on its findings and, if applicable, a list of remedial measures.

    What are the penalties for reprisal?

    When compared to federal law, the state of California provides extensive protection for whistleblowers in the form of strong penalties for retaliatory acts by employers.  

    • Fine of up to $10,000
    • Imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year
    • Disciplinary employment action
    • Civil liability for damages, including punitive damages and reasonable attorney’s fees
    • Reinstatement of the employee by injunctive relief

    If the victim files a civil action against an employer alleging an adverse employment action consequent to a protected disclosure, and a preponderance of the evidence supports the claim, the burden of proof is on the employer to demonstrate that the action would have occurred in the absence of the protected activity. An employee may use a verdict against the employer as an affirmative defense against an adverse action.

    How long do I have to file a retaliation complaint?

    California Government Code § 19683 sets a time limit of 12 months from the most recent act of reprisal.

    What other state laws protect whistleblowers?

    The California Whistleblower Protection Act is specific to state employees. However, the state has enacted whistleblower protections for those in the private sector also.

    Employment Law

    California Labor Code § 1102.5 imposes penalties of up to $10,000 against employers who engage in the following misconduct: 

    • Adopting policies that prevent employees from disclosing information to investigative agencies
    • Retaliating against employees or their family members who report or refuse to participate in illegal activities

    Employees who engage in illegal retaliatory activities on behalf of employers are also subject to adverse action under California Government Code § 19572.

    Health Care Facilities

    Health and Safety Code § 1278.5 protects patients, nurses, medical staff and other health care workers who notify governing or accreditation agencies of suspected unsafe patient conditions or who participate or cooperate in investigations or administrative proceedings related to the facility’s condition, staff or quality.

    Discrimination or unfair treatment of patients or staff in violation of this statute can result in a criminal misdemeanor with a fine of up to $75,000 and a civil penalty of $25,000.

    Occupational Safety and Health Act

    The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act is enforced by OSHA and prohibits discrimination against any employee or family member of any employee who has done any of the following:

    • Complained to the division of health about working conditions
    • Exercised employee rights
    • Participated on occupational health and safety committees
    • Reported a work-related injury

    Violations of this act are considered criminal misdemeanors.

    How can an employment attorney help with my retaliation claim?

    The state of California offers generous protections for those who expose wrongdoing on behalf of the public interest. However, the laws are complex, and retaliatory employers will stop at nothing to destroy your career and your reputation. 

    Our experienced employment attorneys at Cutter Law P.C. take pride in our commitment to protecting clients and standing up to rogue employers. We have a successful track record of winning large settlements and verdicts against employers who are in violation of laws meant to protect the public.

    Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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    Our Office Location

    401 Watt Avenue Suite 100
    Sacramento, CA 95864
    Phone: 916-290-9400

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