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UC Whistleblowers Receive New Legal Protections under New Bill
In mid-July 2010, California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law Senate Bill 650 amending the California Whistleblower Protection Act. The response was due in part to the California Supreme Court's 2008 ruling in Miklosy v. Regents of the University of California.
Under the California Whistleblower Protection Act, an employee of the University of California (UC) or applicant cannot recover damages for intentional acts of reprisal, retaliation, threats, or coercion unless the injured party 1) Filed a complaint to the university, and 2) The university failed to reach a decision in a timely manner.
In Miklosy, the court further concluded that "an employee of the UC who is a whistleblower cannot sue for damages for retaliation where the University timely decided a retaliation complaint."
Senate Bill 650 Gov. Schwarzenegger just signed into law will overturn the California Supreme Court's decision in Miklosy. The bill will "authorize an action for recovery of damages only if the injured party first filed a complaint and the University either reached a decision or failed to reach a decision within the time limit specified by the University, which time limit cannot exceed 18 months."
Various organizations and entities, including the California Nurses Association and Council of UC Faculty Associations, Californians Aware, San Francisco City and County government, and California Newspaper Publishers, supported the Senate bill.
Prior to signing Senate Bill 650, which was authored by State Senator Leland Yee, no civil remedies existed for employees in cases where any reporting subsequently subjected them to retaliatory actions by their employers or their employer's agents. By enacting Senate Bill 650, UC employees now share the same ground as other state employees when it comes to whistleblower retaliation and can seek damages if their reports of wrongdoing are not reviewed fairly.
The public views the amendment to California's Whistleblower Protection Act as a victory for UC employees. UC administrators and elected officials see the Whistleblower Act revisions as a means of also protecting the mission of the university and the interests of California's citizens and eliminating the university's presumed "culture of secrecy."