Whistleblowers in the News, California Style

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Whistleblowing has been front-page news in recent weeks. As an impeachment investigation roils the nation, we’ve heard debate about the handling of confidential complaints, speculation about the whistleblower’s identity, and discussions of the validity of the claims. What we haven’t heard, at least not yet, is a report from the whistleblower that he’s been retaliated against for blowing the whistle. If the system operates as it’s supposed to, that will never happen.

The situation in Washington is far less common than what usually happens with whistleblowing in the workplace. The usual scenario goes something like this: An employee whose identity is known complains about something he considers to be wrong. The employer investigates and either finds the complaint has merit and corrects the problem or deems the complaint unfounded.

When the employee is later disciplined or counseled or denied some reward, he complains that the adverse action was in retaliation for his whistleblowing. The employer explains that the action was based on a legitimate reason unrelated to the whistleblowing. If the dispute isn’t settled amicably, a jury will decide whom to believe.

That was the situation a California Court of Appeal addressed in a recently published decision that serves as an important reminder of the way whistleblower protection works in California.

Problems Existed for Years

Todd Hawkins and Hung Kim worked as part-time hearing officers for the Parking Adjudication Division of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). Their job involved hearing appeals from people who got parking tickets.

Hawkins had clashed with his supervisor, Carolyn Walton-Joseph, for years. She claimed he was doing things wrong and being insubordinate, and he complained about what he viewed as her poor management. In August 2011, after they had an altercation, LADOT assistant manager Robert Andalon asked HR to discipline Hawkins, but no action was taken until years later. Read more here…

Source: HR Daily Advisor

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