WHISTLEBLOWERS -- On a 22-14 vote, the California State Senate today approved legislation
to provide University of California employees who report waste, fraud
and abuse with the same legal protections available to other state employees, reports the bill's author,
Senator Leland Yee (D-San
"Despite overwhelming support from open government advocates and UC
students, faculty, and workers, the University administration continues
to oppose the measure," he said.
"This is the classic case of the fox guarding the hen house, and yet
another example of UC administrators opposing a commonsense reform. UC executives should not be judge and jury on whether or not
they are liable for monetary claims. This was not the intent of
California´s whistleblower law."
In July 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled (Miklosy v. the
Regents of the University of California (S139133, July 31, 2008) that
UC employees who are retaliated against because they report wrongdoing
cannot sue for damages under the state´s Whistleblower Protection Act,
so long as the University itself reviews the complaints in a timely
fashion. The ruling uncovered an oversight made by the Legislature when
the Act was amended in 2001, which provided legal standing for all
other state employees to seek damages.
"In light of the Court´s ruling, it is imperative that the Governor
sign SB 219 to immediately correct this statute and protect UC workers
from unfair retaliation for rightfully reporting waste, fraud, or
abuse," said Yee.
While the Court was unanimous in their ruling, three of the seven
judges urged the Legislature to consider changes to the law, as the
current statute undermines the purpose of the Act.
"The court´s reading of the Act, making the University the judge of its
own civil liability and leaving its employees vulnerable to retaliation
for reporting abuses, thwarts the demonstrated legislative intent to
protect those employees and thereby encourage candid reporting," wrote
Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, joined by Chief Justice Ronald George
and Justice Carlos Moreno. "If the same government organization that
has tried to silence the reporting employee also sits in final judgment
of the employee´s retaliation claim, the law´s protection against
retaliation is illusory."
The Miklosy decision deals with the plight of two former scientists at
UC´s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who repeatedly told their
supervisors about equipment problems and poorly trained operators of a
project designed to determine the safety and reliability of the
nation´s nuclear weapons stockpile. One of the scientists, Leo Miklosy,
was fired in February 2003 and the other, Luciana Messina, resigned a
few days later after overhearing a supervisor say she would also be