The California legislative term that just ended has produced more new employment-related laws than in any recent year. The California Legislature, with a super majority of Democrats, and Governor Jerry Brown have enacted seventeen new laws that impose additional burdens on employers and continue the trend of expanding employee rights that has existed for several years. Except where otherwise specified in the alert, all of the new laws take effect on January 1, 2014.
Senate Bill 496 (Expansion of Whistleblower Retaliation Protections)
Current Labor Code section 1102.5(a), (b) prohibits actions to prevent employees from reporting violations of law to a government agency, and prohibits retaliation against employees who have made such external reports. In addition, case law holds that an employee whose duties include disclosure of legal compliance information is not a “whistleblower.”
SB 496 expands the protections of Labor Code section 1102.5(a), (b) to internal whistleblowers. It also legislatively overturns case law exempting employees who have legal compliance duties.
SB 496 prohibits an employer from adopting any rule, regulation, or policy preventing an employee from disclosing reasonably-believed violations of law or regulations to a person with authority over the employee or to another employee who has authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.
SB 496 also prevents retaliation against an employee because the employer believes that the employee disclosed or may disclose information, to a government or law enforcement agency, or to a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of law or regulations, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.
In addition, SB 496 makes it illegal to take specified actions designed to prevent an employee from providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or