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New Law Expands Whistleblower Protection for Health Care Workers (AB 632)

Effective as of October 14, 2007,Assembly Bill 632 amended Health and Safety Code section 1278.5, which provides protections for "whistleblowers" against health care facilities. The statute as amended prohibits such facilities from discriminating or retaliating against any patient, employee, facility medical staff, or any other health care worker of the facility because that person (1) presented a grievance, complaint or report to an entity or agency responsible for accrediting or evaluating the facility or to any other government agency; or (2) initiated, participated, or cooperated in an investigation or administrative proceeding related to the quality of care, services, or conditions at the facility. The statute provides that a rebuttable presumption of discrimination is established if: (i) responsible staff at the facility or its owner-operator had knowledge of the actions, participation or cooperation of the employee; and (ii) the discriminatory action occurred within 120 days of the filing of the grievance or complaint by the employee. A prevailing employee in any lawsuit is entiled to : reinstatement, reimbursement, attorneys fees and legal costs and any other previously available civil penalty.