Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill in intent form (with specifics to be added shortly) to remedy some frustrating shortcomings in California law supposedly protecting whistleblowers in government employment.  According to a background fact sheet from Yee’s office,

Whistleblowers seek to improve our government and the services provided to taxpayers by exposing wrongdoing, waste, or fraud. However, whistleblowers who speak truth to power—and expose misconduct by powerful superiors—may be exposed to detrimental reassignment, demotions or even discharge.

The California Whistleblower Protection Act should shield these employees from such retaliation, but doesn’t, the fact sheet says.

Current whistleblower law fails to adequately protect civil servants from improper retaliation and fails to provide timely review and resolution of complaints about improper retaliation. Whistleblowers who allege retaliation are often subjected to years of administrative hearings and scrutiny at considerable expense to both the whistleblower and state taxpayers.

The degree of failure is illustrated in some dismal figures.

Of the 106 whistleblower retaliation complaints accepted by the State Personnel Board between 2003 and 2005, none were resolved in favor of the complainant, 58 were denied, 5 resulted in a “stipulated agreement” and 42 were “still pending” at the time the reports were published. These delays in resolving the complaints result in cost burdens to the state and render the Act itself virtually useless.

SB 1267, to be given its first hearing later this month or in early April, will respond to these shortcomings by:

  • Allowing a complainant to take the case before a jury if the State Personnel Board (SPB) fails to meet the timelines and requirements set forth.
  • Requiring the written consent of the complainant before the SPB may extend the time frames for resolving the complaint.
  • Entitling the state and the injured party to seek reimbursement for their expenses, costs, and attorney fees when liability is established.