By Oshea Orchid and Kevin Grady
Prior to 2014, Section 1102.5 prohibited an employer from retaliating against an employee who either, reported to a government or law enforcement agency their belief that their employer was violating a statute, rule, or regulation, or refused to participate in their employer’s activities which would result in a violation of a statute, rule, or regulation.
The 2014 amendments to Section 1102.5 extended whistleblower protection to employees who internally reported violations and also employees who reported suspected illegal behavior. Before 2014, internal complaints by an employee to his employer were not enough to support a claim of retaliation under Section 1102.5. Now employees are protected if they report internally to a person with authority over the employee, to another employee with the authority to investigate discover, or correct the reported violation, or externally to any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry.
The new amendments also provide protection to employees who allege that they have been retaliated against because the employer believes that the employee disclosed or may disclose information internally or externally.
In addition to significantly expanding what employee conduct is protected under Section 1102.5, Labor Code section 98.7 was also amended. Labor Code section 98.7, previously required an employee to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner as a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit in state or federal court alleging retaliation under Section 1102.5. The removal of this procedural requirement makes the process of getting to litigation that much easier.
Violations of Section 1102.5 can have serious consequences for employers, including civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation. This $10,000 penalty is in addition to all other penalties and damages that an employee may be entitled to.