How a California Senate bill can expand whistleblower protections

The protections provided by the California Whistleblower Protection Act could be expanded further if a bill currently in the California Senate makes it through both chambers of the legislature and is signed into law.

The legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 947, would give extend the whistleblower protections currently provided to state employees to employees of companies and other private entities that have no-bid state contracts for more than $25 million.

The bill was inspired by whistleblowers in a Valencia lab

The bill was written by Senate Minority Leader Scott Wilk who saw government contractors in his own area “blow the whistle” on failures in a Valencia lab (in northern Los Angeles County) only to lose their employer the contract as a result. Under the current law, there’s no legal recourse for such retaliation. Sen. Wilk says, “Robust anti-retaliation and anti-interference protections for workers on California state contracts make it far more likely that the government, taxpayers, and in many cases, the authorities, are aware of any improprieties.”

The legislation has strong bipartisan support. As one whistleblower notes, “Protecting people who are pointing out wrongs is something that people from both parties generally agree with….State contractors work in…labs, but they can also work on everything from tearing down plants that held dangerous materials to overseeing employees who handle a lot of state funds. There’s just too much at stake for both the state and for citizens.”

The legislation, which would apply to contractors and those applying for state contracts, has the support of the National Whistleblower Center. Its executive director says, “Employees conducting work through state contracts are working on behalf of the state, using state funds to accomplish state goals, and should be free to report fraud, waste, and abuse with the same level of protection from retaliation that state employees enjoy.”

It’s crucial that people who are on the front lines in any industry be able to report wrongdoing without fear of retaliation for themselves or, in some cases, for their employer. However, before taking that action, it’s crucial to have legal guidance.