Monday, July 19, 2010

Project On Govt Oversight (POGO) Comments on Arnold and UC Whistleblower Legislation

Jul 19, 2010
California Whistleblowers Receive Some Rights

Yesterday, Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger terminated the lack of whistleblower rights for employees of the University of California. The Governator signed S.B. 650, amending the California Whistleblower Protection Act to correct the California Supreme Court’s decision in Miklosy v. the Regents of the University of California. The legislation amended Cal. Gov. Code Sec. 8547.10 to conform to Sec. 8547.12, which governs California State University.

POGO has been very involved in this case because UC is a top 100 federal contractor, but yet its employees didn’t have legitimate whistleblower rights. The effort was taken up by California Sate Senator Leland Yee who has been proposing legislation since the California Supreme Court decision was issued in 2008. According to Senator Yee:

SB 650 provides UC employees with the same legal protections as other state employees, including those at California State University and California’s community colleges. The new law will ensure that UC employees can exercise their right to seek damages in court on a retaliation complaint that was not responded to fairly by the university.

This is great news, because in the past UC employees were left without any civil remedy so long as UC rendered a decision on a case in a timely fashion. In essence, UC was its own judge and jury, and there was no independent evaluation of the retaliatory actions against employees.

This action is a step down from a proposal last year to provide UC whistleblowers the same protects as other government employees, but this is a great example of how democracy works—even if it took many years and the involvement of all three branches of state government.

And with the recent decision in Runyon v. Board of Trustee of the California State University (2010) holding that a whistleblower could properly pursue a remedy in the Superior Court after an adverse administrative ruling, UC whistleblowers have improved protections and the bad precedent of Miklosy is nearly erased.

-- Scott Amey

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