California Allows Attorney's Fees Award To Successful Whistleblowers
California's Labor Code currently prohibits employers, or persons acting on their behalf, from retaliating against employees who "blow the whistle". Cal. Lab. Code § 1102.5. The same statute also prohibits employers, or persons acting on their behalf, from making or enforcing policies preventing employees from blowing the whistle. Corporations or limited liability companies can be subject to civil penalties of $10,000 per violation.
Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1947 (Kalra) which, among other things, amends Section 1102.5 to authorize a court to award attorney's fees to a plaintiff who brings a successful action for violation of the statute. Because the bill was co-sponsored by the California Employment Lawyers Association, a statewide association of lawyers who represent employees, it should be no surprise that the attorney's fees provision is one-way. As noted by the California Chamber of Commerce, this will serve as "an incentive for lawyers to engage in ever greater amounts of litigation, to the detriment and distraction of business". It will also increase the settlement value of lawsuits brought by the bill's sponsor.