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California whistle-blower law is revived

By in Press Enterprise on February 1, 2018

By The New York Times

By Melody Gutierrez

SACRAMENTO — In each of the past four years, a Senate committee inexplicably killed a bill to provide whistle-blower protections to legislative employees. Now, the revived bill is one of the most popular in the Legislature, with more than half the lawmakers signing on as co-authors as it heads to the full Senate for a critical vote Thursday.

That’s the power of the #MeToo movement, said bill author Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, a Republican from Lake Elsinore. As the Legislature looks at how it can protect its employees from sexual harassment and abuse, many women have pointed to Melendez’s long-stalled bills to provide anti-retaliation protections as the answer.

AB403 was released from legislative limbo this month after the Senate Appropriations Committee that held it up each year forwarded it to the Senate floor for a vote Thursday. The bill says, ‘’Legislative employees should be free to report legal and ethical violations without fear of retribution.” The protections in the bill would also cover volunteers, interns, fellows and those applying for a job in the Legislature.

Under the legislation, anyone who intentionally retaliates against a whistle-blower in the Legislature could be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to a year and could be sued by the employee in civil court. The protections are similar to what lawmakers passed for all other state employees — including judicial and executive branch staffers — under the California Whistleblower Protection Act.

Melendez introduced whistle-blower bills in 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014. All four bills unanimously passed in the Assembly. When they reached the Senate, however, they stalled without a vote — or an explanation — in the Appropriations Committee. That Senate committee handles bills that cost money, with the whistle-blower bill sent there because of added ‘’cost pressures” from investigations if more people report bad behavior, according […]    

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