Whistleblower

This is a Non Profit Project. We don't collect personal data and we don't use cookies.

Whistleblower

Definition

A whistleblower is an employee, contractor, or subcontractor of a company who reports his/her employer’s suspected unsafe, unlawful, or dishonest activity. Whistleblowers may report their allegations internally (for example, to their company’s upper management or to the company’s ethics officer) or externally to regulators responsible for oversight of the entity involved. A whistleblower’s inside knowledge of the suspected unlawful or dishonest activity may assist the California agencies and other public bodies in uncovering otherwise undetectable wrongdoing. Whistleblowers can play a valuable role in helping those bodies obtain needed evidence to support the allegation.

In other words, a “whistleblower” is an employee who discloses information to a government or law enforcement agency, person with authority over the employee, or to another employee with authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or who provides information to or testifies before a public body conducting an investigation, hearing or inquiry, where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses:

  • A violation of a state or federal statute,
  • A violation or noncompliance with a local, state or federal rule or regulation, or
  • With reference to employee safety or health, unsafe working conditions or work practices in the employee’s employment or place of employment.

A whistleblower can also be an employee who refuses to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of a state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state or federal rule or regulation.

Pursuant to California Labor Code Section 1102.5, employees are the protected class of individuals.

“Employee” means any person employed by an employer, private or public, including, but not limited to, individuals employed by the state or any subdivision thereof, any county, city, city and county, including any charter city or county, and any school district, community college district, municipal or public corporation, political subdivision, or the University of California. [California Labor Code Section 1106]

Protection of Whistleblowers

It is the public policy of the State of California to encourage employees to notify an appropriate
government or law enforcement agency, person with authority over the employee, or another
employee with authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, and to provide information to and testify before a public body conducting an investigation, hearing or inquiry, when they have reason to believe their employer is violating a state or federal statute, or violating or not complying with a local, state or federal rule or regulation.

California Labor Code Section 1102.5(b) protects whistleblowers from retaliation by the employer where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of or noncompliance with state or federal statute/rule/regulation. Under California Labor Code Section 1102.5, therefore, if an employer retaliates against a whistleblower, the employer may be required to reinstate the employee’s employment and work benefits, pay lost wages, and take other steps necessary to comply with the law.

In addition, Government Code Section 12653 reads, in part, “No employer shall discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, deny promotion to, or in any other manner discriminate against an employee because of lawful acts in disclosing information to a government agency.”

A whistleblower is not protected from retaliation if he or she violates the confidentiality of the lawyer-client privilege. (Labor Code section 1102.5(g). Therefore, an informant should not disclose information identified as privileged. In addition, California law does not protect disclosures made by private sector employees that reveal a trade secret. Whistleblower laws generally do not protect employees whose criticisms involve matters of personal rather than public concern.

Finally, a prospective whistleblower should determine if the employer has established internal procedures to handle whistleblower claims. If so, the employee should review these procedures to determine how to proceed.

California State Auditor

The California Whistleblower Protection Act authorizes the California State Auditor to receive complaints from state employees and members of the public who wish to report an improper governmental activity. An “improper governmental activity” is defined as any action by a state agency or any action by a state employee directly related to state government that violates the law, violates an Executive Order of the Governor, violates a Rule of Court, violates the State Administrative Manual or State Contracting Manual, is economically wasteful, or involves gross misconduct, incompetency, or inefficiency. The complaints received by the State Auditor shall remain confidential, and the identity of the complainant may not be revealed without the permission of the complainant, except to an appropriate law enforcement agency conducting a criminal investigation.

Upon receiving a complaint, the State Auditor may conduct an investigation into the facts alleged in the complaint to determine whether an improper governmental activity has occurred. Before launching an investigation, the State Auditor’s staff will conduct a careful evaluation of the complaint to determine whether it has enough potential merit to warrant the expenditure of state resources to conduct an investigation.

Whistleblower Notifications

California public agencies have the following main ongoing responsibilities with regard to the Whistleblower Protection Act:

First, under California Government Code section 8548.2, each state agency must print notices distributed by the California State Auditor containing information concerning the Whistleblower Protection Act and post the notices in locations where other employee notices are maintained. Second, under Government Code section 8548.3 each state agency annually must send the information contained in the notice by electronic mail to all of its employees. Every year, the State Auditor issues an updated notification in the form of a poster, memorandum for distribution to agency employees, and notification to departments to facilitate compliance with these responsibilities.

Whistleblowers usually relay information to law enforcement and other government agencies, in California or elsewhere in the United States. In the case of white-collar crimes, whistleblowers are particularly helpful, since they report internal wrongdoing that may be difficultut to determine outside the entity or corporation. At federal level, but also in other levels, the Whistleblower legislation protects California employees from retaliation when they report (with some reasonable basis) wrongdoing by their employers.

Resources

See Also

Leave a Comment