The California Whistleblower Protection Act authorizes state employees and members of the public to report improper governmental activity to the California State Auditor. The “whistleblower” is the employee or member of the public who informs the Auditor about the activity.
An “improper governmental activity” is any action by a state agency or state employee that:
– violates the law,
– violates an Executive Order of the Governor,
– violates a Rule of Court,
– violates the State Administrative Manual or State Contracting Manual,
– is economically wasteful, or
– involves gross misconduct, incompetency, or inefficiency.
Complaints received by the Auditor are confidential, and the identity of the whistleblower may not be revealed without the whistleblower’s permission. There is an exception to this is if a law enforcement agency is conducting a criminal investigation as a result of the complaint.
Previously, if an individual wanted to file a complaint under the Whistleblower Protection Act against a governmental agency, he had to first file a governmental claim. A case decided in October 2013 removed the governmental claim hurdle.
The case, Cornejo v. Will Lightbourne, as Director of Department of Social Services, involved a plaintiff that worked for the Department of Social Services. She reported certain improper governmental activity within the department. She alleged that she was subject to retaliation and discrimination. The trial court dismissed her action on the procedural matter of failing to file a governmental claim. The case was appealed and reversed. The appellate court agreed with the plaintiff’s claim that the Whistleblower Protection Act is like the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) in that the Whistleblower Protection Act has a comprehensive administrative procedure that satisfies the purposes of the presentation procedure in the Claims Act. Therefore the Whistleblower Protection Act is not subject to the Claims Act.