In California’s Government Code, Title 2, Division 2, Part 1, Chapter 1.5, Article 11 is the “Legislative Employee Whistleblower Protection Act,” which is contained in Sections 9149.30 to 9149.36. Section 9149.30 provides the formal title of the Act.
Section 9149.31 provides a legislative finding and declaration that, in addition to existing retaliation protections under Section 1102.5 of the Labor Code and under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (Part 2.8 (commencing with Section 12900) of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code), it is necessary to establish a specific process for legislative employees who report legal and ethical violations, so that they may do so without fear of retribution.
Section 9149.32 provides definitions for the following terms: “interfere,” “legislative employee,” “protected disclosure,” “retaliate,” and “use of official authority or influence.” Section 9149.33 prohibits a Member of the Legislature or a legislative employee from directly or indirectly using or attempting to use that individual’s official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with the right of a legislative employee to make a protected disclosure.
An individual who violates this section is subject to a fine not to exceed $10,000 and imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year. In addition, an individual or entity that uses or attempts to use its official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with the right of a legislative employee to make a protected disclosure is liable in a civil action for damages brought by a legislative employee.
Section 9149.34 provides that an individual who intentionally retaliates against a legislative employee for having made a protected disclosure is subject to a fine not to exceed $10,000 and imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year.
Section 9149.35 specifies that an individual or entity that intentionally retaliates against a legislative employee for having made a protected disclosure is liable in a civil action for damages brought by a legislative employee. Also, the burden of proof is on the offending party to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the alleged action would have occurred for legitimate, independent reasons even if the legislative employee had not made a protected disclosure.
If liability is established under this section, then the prevailing plaintiff is entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. In addition, punitive damages may be awarded by the court if the acts of the offending party are proven to be fraudulent, oppressive, or malicious.
Section 9149.36 clarifies that this article does not limit the application of any other rights or remedies under federal or state laws, and any penalties imposed or damages awarded under this article are in addition to those provided under any other federal or state laws.
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