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AB-1961 Whistleblower protection.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 01/21/2020 09:00 PM
AB1961:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 1961


Introduced by Assembly Member Patterson
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Bigelow, Flora, and Mathis)
(Coauthor: Senator Bates)

January 21, 2020


An act to amend Section 8547.2 of the Government Code, relating to whistleblowers: protected disclosures.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1961, as introduced, Patterson. Whistleblower protection.
Existing law, the California Whistleblower Protection Act, prohibits an employee from interfering with a person’s rights to disclose improper activity and be free from reprisal under the act. The act authorizes the California State Auditor to conduct an investigation upon receiving specific information that an employee or state agency has engaged in an improper governmental activity, as defined. The act applies to state agencies, as defined, and to the University of California, the California State University, and courts, as specified. The act requires the auditor to establish a means of submitting allegations of improper governmental activity, and generally requires the California State Auditor to keep confidential every investigation, including all investigative files and work product. Under the act, a person who intentionally engages in acts of reprisal, retaliation, threats, coercion, or similar acts against a state employee or an applicant for state employment for having made a protected disclosure is subject to civil liability and criminal penalties. The act defines a “protected disclosure” to mean, among other things, a good faith communication that discloses information that may evidence an improper governmental activity. The act specifically includes in “protected disclosure” a good faith communication to the California State Auditor’s Office alleging an improper governmental activity and any evidence delivered to the California State Auditor’s Office in support of the allegation. Under the act, “protected disclosure” also includes, but is not limited to, a complaint made to the Commission on Judicial Performance.
This bill would expand the definition of the term “protected disclosure” to include a complaint made to a Member of the Legislature, the Legislature, or any subdivision thereof.
Because this bill would expand the definition of a crime, it would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 8547.2 of the Government Code is amended to read:

8547.2.
 For the purposes of this article, the following terms have the following meanings:
(a) “Employee” means an individual appointed by the Governor, or employed or holding office in a state agency as defined by Section 11000, including, for purposes of Sections 8547.3 to 8547.7, inclusive, an employee of the California State University, or an individual appointed by the Legislature to a state board or commission and who is not a Member or employee of the Legislature. In addition, “employee” means a person employed by the Supreme Court, a court of appeal, a superior court, or the Administrative Office of the Courts for the purposes of Sections 8547.3 to 8547.7, inclusive, and Section 8547.13, except for those provisions of Section 8547.4 concerning notice of adverse action and the State Personnel Board. “Employee” includes a former employee who met the criteria of this subdivision during his or her their employment.
(b) “Illegal order” means a directive to violate or assist in violating a federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation, or an order to work or cause others to work in conditions outside of their line of duty that would unreasonably threaten the health or safety of employees or the public.
(c) “Improper governmental activity” means an activity by a state agency or by an employee that is undertaken in the performance of the employee’s duties, undertaken inside a state office, or, if undertaken outside a state office by the employee, directly relates to state government, whether or not that activity is within the scope of his or her their employment, and that (1) is in violation of any state or federal law or regulation, including, but not limited to, corruption, malfeasance, bribery, theft of government property, fraudulent claims, fraud, coercion, conversion, malicious prosecution, misuse of government property, or willful omission to perform duty, (2) is in violation of an Executive order of the Governor, a California Rule of Court, or any policy or procedure mandated by the State Administrative Manual or State Contracting Manual, or (3) is economically wasteful, involves gross misconduct, incompetency, or inefficiency. For purposes of Sections 8547.4, 8547.5, 8547.7, 8547.10, and 8547.11, “improper governmental activity” includes any activity by the University of California or by an employee, including an officer or faculty member, who otherwise meets the criteria of this subdivision. For purposes of Sections 8547.4, 8547.5, and 8547.13, “improper governmental activity” includes any activity by the Supreme Court, a court of appeal, a superior court, or the Administrative Office of the Courts, or by an employee thereof, who otherwise meets the criteria of this subdivision.
(d) “Person” means an individual, corporation, trust, association, a state or local government, or an agency or instrumentality of any of the foregoing.
(e) “Protected disclosure” means a good faith communication, including a communication based on, or when carrying out, job duties, that discloses or demonstrates an intention to disclose information that may evidence (1) an improper governmental activity, or (2) a condition that may significantly threaten the health or safety of employees or the public if the disclosure or intention to disclose was made for the purpose of remedying that condition. Protected disclosure specifically includes a good faith communication to the California State Auditor’s Office alleging an improper governmental activity and any evidence delivered to the California State Auditor’s Office in support of the allegation. “Protected disclosure” also includes, but is not limited to, a complaint made to the Commission on Judicial Performance. Performance or to a Member of the Legislature, the Legislature, or any subdivision thereof.
(f) “State agency” is defined by Section 11000. “State agency” includes the University of California for purposes of Sections 8547.5 to 8547.7, inclusive, and the California State University for purposes of Sections 8547.3 to 8547.7, inclusive. Sections 8547.3 to 8547.7, inclusive, shall apply to the Supreme Court, the courts of appeal, the superior courts, and the Administrative Office of the Courts in the same manner as they apply to a state agency.

SEC. 2.

 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.