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Pa.: Whistleblower Bills Signed into Law
 

By Rosemarie Lally  8/20/2014
 

Legislation designed to expand whistleblower protections to cover employees of government contractors unanimously passed the Pennsylvania General Assembly on June 28, followed by the unanimous passage one day later of a similar measure to extend protections to employees of the state legislature.

Both bills were signed into law on July 2 by Gov. Tom Corbett and will go into effect Aug. 31.

The first measure, House Bill 118, protects employees of private, for-profit companies and nonprofits who report the waste of public money by their employers. The law amends the definitions of “employee,” “employer,” and “good faith report.”

Further, the new law states that an employer may not “discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment because the employee or a person acting on behalf of the employee makes a good faith report or is about to report, verbally or in writing to the employer or appropriate authority an instance of wrongdoing or waste by a public body or an instance of waste by any other employer.”

The legislation increases the fine an employer can face for wrongful retaliation against a whistleblowing employee from $500 to $10,000 and also allows for suspension from public service for up to seven years, except in the case of a publicly elected official. The current whistleblower law permits suspensions of only up to six months.

The measure won initial approval from the state’s House of Representatives shortly after its introduction in January 2013 but has spent the past year tied up in the Senate Labor and Industry Committee. The Senate, after amending the bill to preserve an employer’s ability to take disciplinary action against a worker who has submitted a claim in bad faith, voted unanimously for its passage on June 27.

The second measure, House Bill 185, extends whistleblower protections to employees of the General Assembly and its agencies who make good faith reports about waste, fraud or abuse. The legislation increases the civil fine for wrongful retaliation from $500 to $10,000, but holds the suspension from public service to six months for anyone found in violation of the law.

House Bill 185 also preserves the right of an employer to take disciplinary action against an employee who submitted a whistleblowing report in bad faith.

Rosemarie Lally, J.D., is a freelance legal writer and editor based in Washington, D.C.

 

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