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California Expands Protection For Whistleblowers

Published by on January 10, 2014

California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 666 and AB 263, which together expand protections for whistleblowers in California by amending California’s general whistleblower statute, Labor Code section 1102.5.  These amendments are effective January 1, 2014. Before the enactment of SB 666 and AB 263, Labor Code section 1102.5 only prohibited the retaliation against those […]

California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 666 and AB 263, which together expand protections for whistleblowers in California by amending California’s general whistleblower statute, Labor Code section 1102.5.  These amendments are effective January 1, 2014.

Before the enactment of SB 666 and AB 263, Labor Code section 1102.5 only prohibited the retaliation against those employees who reported reasonably-believed violations of state or federal laws or regulations to a government or law enforcement agency.  SB 496 extends this protection to those employees who report suspected illegal behavior: (a) internally to “a person with authority over the employee” or to another employee with the authority to “investigate discover, or correct” the reported violation, or (b) externally to any “public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry.” Additionally, section 1102.5 will now prohibit employers from maintaining policies that prevent the disclosure of reasonably-believed violations of local laws or regulations.

In addition to imposing liability on employers, section 1102.5 will now also imposes liability where any person acting on the employer’s behalf retaliates against an employee who engages in protected whistleblowing activity.  Additionally, employers and persons acting on their behalf may not engage in “anticipatory” retaliation – retaliation against an employee because it is believed that the employee has engaged or may engage in whistleblowing activity.

A violation of section 1102.5 can result in severe consequences for employers, including civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

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