WHISTLEBLOWERS -- On a 50-24 vote, the California State Assembly today approved
legislation to provide University of California employees who report
waste, fraud and abuse with the same legal protections as other state
employees, reports the office of its author, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo).

In July 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled 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, including employees of the California State
University, to seek damages.

In response to the Court’s decision
in Miklosy v. the Regents of the University of California (S139133,
July 31, 2008), Senator Yee introduced Senate Bill 219.  SB 219 is one of several good governance
proposals opposed by the UC Board of Regents.

“This is the
classic case of the fox guarding the hen house, and yet another example
of UC administrators opposing a commonsense reform,” said Yee.  “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 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.”

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 fired.