On October 12, 2013, SB 496 was signed into law, which expands protections for whistleblower employees in California by amending California Labor Code Section 1102.5, California’s whistleblower protection statute. The amendment took effect on January 1, 2014.
Prior to its amendment, Section 1102.5 only protected employees from retaliation who reported violations of state or federal laws, rules, or regulations to government or enforcement agencies. SB 496 enhanced the protections of Section 1102.5 by protecting employees who report illegal activity to “a person with authority over the employee”or to another employee with the authority to “investigate, discover, or correct” the illegal activity. The amendment also protects employees who report illegal activities to any “public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry.”
The legislation further imposes liability against individuals that act on behalf of the employer to retaliate against an employee who engages in protected reporting activities. Also, employers and individuals acting on their behalf of the employer may not retaliate against an employee because the employer believes the employee has disclosed or may disclose the suspected illegal activity externally and/or internally.
An employee suffering a whistleblowing violation can sue for damages, including, but not limited to, a $10,000 civil penalty for each violation, lost wages and benefits, attorneys’ fees, and possible punitive damages for willful conduct.
Based upon the amendment of California Labor Code Section 1102.5, employees can now feel more comfortable reporting violations of local, state, and federal law both internally and externally. Furthermore, employees faced with retaliation as a result of reporting potential illegal activity in the workplace may be entitled to substantial monetary damages depending upon the circumstances.
The Law Offices of Jual F. Reyes is capable of communicating in both English and Spanish.