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  • Writer's pictureTheresa Barta

California Health Care Providers have Strong Whistleblower Protections

This law came to mind because there are doctors, nurses and health care providers who are reporting unsafe conditions relating to providing COVID-19 care (such as lack of PPE) and are being retaliated against, disciplined and even terminated from their jobs.

Doctors, nurses, other health care providers (and patients) must not fear reporting any condition they believe jeopardizes patient care or is unsafe (to workers or patients), because they are protected by California’s “whistleblower” law. (Health & Safety Code §1278.5)

The law states that a health care facility shall not discriminate or retaliate against an employee, doctor, other health care worker or patient because they:

  • Present a grievance, complaint or report of unsafe patient care or conditions or

  • Initiate or cooperate in an investigation related to patient care, services or conditions.

Most importantly, the law defines “facility” to include administrative staff, employees, boards, committees and medical staff (not just the hospital or facility itself). This means that doctors, nurses, health care providers, and patients, are protected against retaliation if they report health care conditions they think are unsafe.

Other parts of the law provide even further protection to whistleblowers:

  1. Something the law calls a “Rebuttable Presumption”, which in layman’s terms means that if actions are taken against the whistleblower within 120 days of them making their report, those actions are presumed to be retaliatory and unlawful. (But even if the retaliation occurs after more than 120 days, whistleblower protections still apply.)

  2. When a whistleblower has been fired or disciplined, the law states that they shall be reinstated and reimbursed for lost wages and benefits and reimbursed for any attorneys fees they incur in pursuing the matter.

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