SACRAMENTO – A bill broadening whistle-blower protections for employees who report, or refuse to participate in, illegal employer activities was approved Thursday by the state Assembly.
The measure by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Norwalk, would bar employers from retaliating against employees who refuse to take part in illegal activities or activities that may be illegal.
It would also:
– Bar an employer from retaliating against an employee for reporting illegal activities in a previous job.
– Require the attorney general to maintain a telephone hotline that employees could call to report possible violations of laws or regulations.
– Require employers to post a notice outlining employee rights and responsibilities under the whistle-blower law, including the hotline number.
– Authorize fines of as much as $10,000 for violations of the bill’s requirements.
The bill would give employers a defense against claims of improper retaliation, if they had clear and convincing evidence the action occurred for legitimate, independent reasons.
Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, said the bill would provide “very important protections for people who care to let the attorney general know and others … know when illegal activity has happened.”
But Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Temecula, said the bill would help drive businesses out of the state.
“Employers still have to have some control over the behavior of their employees,” he said. “Employees should not be able to find a safe harbor by being whistle-blowers.”
Thursday’s 43-27 vote returned the bill to the Senate for a vote on Assembly amendments.