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New enhanced whistleblower statute for 2014

On January 1, 2014, one of the primary whistleblower statutes will be amended to provide broader protection for whistleblowers in California.  Labor Code § 1102.5 will now provide express protection for employees that make internal complaints to their employers about violations of law or, at a minimum, reasonable suspicions of illegal conduct.  The internal complaints must be to a person with authority over the employee, such as a manager, foreperson, or supervisor, or another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the legal violation or non-compliance with law.

The amended statute reads in relevant part as follows:

"An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not retaliate against an employee for disclosing information, or because the employer believes that the employee disclosed or may disclose information, to a government or law enforcement agency, to a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or for providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee's job duties."

The Labor Code is also amended to codify that no administrative exhaustion of remedies is required prior to filing a claim under Labor Code § 1102.5.  There had been conflicting Court of Appeal opinions, so we welcome the Legislature's clarification.

Employees should promptly report all reasonable suspicions of illegal conduct or violations by the employer.  The report should be made to a manager, supervisor or other person with authority over the employee, or an employee with the power to investigate the complaint.  Employees should exercise their  whether to report their employer to law enforcement or other government authorities.  The law provides broad legal protection to "whistleblower" employees reporting illegal conduct.

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