Amendments to California’s Whistleblower Statue Create New Protections for Whistleblowing Employees

California Labor Code Section 1102.5 was enacted in 1984 to protect employees who report violations of state and federal laws by their employers. Under this law, employers are prevented from enforcing policies which prohibit employees from reporting the illegal activities of employers to governmental agency, essentially “blowing the whistle” on the employer’s violations of the law. In addition, under the Whistleblower Statute, employers may not retaliate against their employees who report the employer’s illegal activity. This year, there have been several amendments to the statute which expand whistleblower protections under the statute.

While the previous version of the law protected only whistleblowers who disclosed actual violations to a government or law enforcement agency, the amended statute now allows for employees who report violations to any person who has the authority to investigate, discover or correct the alleged violation or noncompliance. Additionally, in order to be protected by the whistleblowing statute, the reporting employee only needs to have a “reasonable belief” that the employer’s conduct is unlawful. If it is later found that the reported conduct was not in violation of any statute, the employee may not be disciplined if the report was made with the “reasonable belief” that a violation occurred.

Prior to the recent amendment, in order to be protected by Section 1102.5, an employee had to disclose the employer’s violation of state or federal laws to be protected by the whistleblower statute. As amended, the law now broadens protection to employees who report their employer’s violation of local laws as well. This means that if an employee reports an employer’s violation of a municipal code or local ordinance, that employee is now protected by Section 1102.5.

Finally, in perhaps what is the most significant change to the statute, an employer is now prohibited from retaliating against an employee “because the employer believes that the employee disclosed or may disclose the information.”In the past, the employee had to actually disclose information in order to be a protected by the whistleblower statute but now even an employee who the employer merely suspects may have disclosed information will be protected.

The purpose of Labor Code Section 1102.5 is to protect employees who do the right thing by “blowing the whistle” on their employer’s illegal acts. The new amendments to the act only provide more protection to whistleblowing employees. If you believe that your employer is violating the law but are afraid to speak up for fear of being retaliated against by your employer, contact an experienced employment law attorney who will help you determine whether you will be protected by the whistleblower statute.

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