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Whistleblower Protection for California Employees

As a Los Angeles employment law firm with offices throughout California, a large percentage of our cases involve whistleblower protection for employees, due to their reporting of illegal activities. In fact, California Labor Code 1102.5 prohibits not only reporting (internally or to a governmental agency) but also refusing to participate in an illegal activity. Our Labor Code, 1102.5 is modeled after the Federal False Claims Act.

Today, the vast majority of false claims filed are for health care fraud. In addition to the “generic” laws against whistle blowing, California employees may also rely on Health and Safety Code 1278.5. This law protects health care workers and patients by prohibiting health care facilities from retaliating or discriminating against workers who report wrongfoing. A rebuttable presumption exists that if adverse action is taken against an employee within 120 days of reporting or filing a grievance, then that emploeyr has discriminated. The penalty is $25,000 along with another fine for up to $20,000 as a misdemeanor. The employee gets reinstatment (but who would want that?), reimbursement for losts wages and any additional sanction ordered by the court. These are all-encompassing remedies and give great whistleblower protection. The law has now been extended to cover retaliation agaisnt workers at long-term health care facilities Health and Safety Code 1432.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “PPACA”), whistle blowers are given additional protections. This law (“Obama Care”) requires the return of any overpayment to the government within 60 days’ of identification of the overpayments. If the health care facility keeps the moeny beyond that, it may be liable for what is called a “Reverse False Claim”. ┬áThe time period in which to review overpayments is ten years. A recent case against MountSinai Health System alleged failure to report and return Medicaid overpayments within the 60 day window. Kave vs. Healthfirst).

In further blogs, we’ll continue to cover all California laws prohibiting retaliation in specific areas of employment, such as education, public employment and finance. Call to discuss your specific situation!