SB 786 - Under current law, state employees are permitted to disclose information which relates to the violation of law, mismanagement, or waste of funds within a state agency without fear of disciplinary action being taken for such disclosure. This act modifies that provision to apply to all public employees and broadens the scope of entities that a public employee can discuss information with to include prosecuting and circuit attorneys, law enforcement agencies, news media, and the public.
The act further expands the scope of information that can be disclosed by employees to include any violation of policy, waste of public resources, alteration of technical findings or communication of scientific opinion, and breaches of professional ethical canons. Furthermore, no public employee can be prevented from testifying before a court, administrative body, or legislative body regarding any such disclosure.
Current law provides that any administrative appeal filed by a state employee alleging that disciplinary action was taken against them in violation of this act must be filed within 30 days of the disciplinary action. Furthermore, such employees may currently bring a civil action in court within 90 days of the alleged violation. This act extends both of those time limits to one year and further allows any person commencing such an action to demand a jury trial.
In a civil action brought under this act, the public employer shall bear the burden of demonstrating that the disciplinary action taken against the employee was not the result of the employee reporting alleged misconduct.
Damages available to a public employee under this act include lost wages and restoration of benefits, limited punitive damages, reinstatement, and injunction against further employment actions related to the reporting of misconduct. A court may additionally award costs of the litigation, court costs, and reasonable attorney fees.
If the misconduct alleged by a public employee involves the receipt and expenditure of public funds, the employee may request an investigation by the State Auditor.
Any person who obtains a claim or final judgment for a payment to be made out of the state legal expense fund shall not be offered or required to sign any confidentiality agreement stating that he or she will not discuss his or her claim or final judgment or stating that if he or she does discuss such claim or final judgment, he or she will waive any right to moneys from the state legal expense fund.
This act is substantially similar to HB 1515 (2018).
SA 1 - MAKES A TECHNICAL SPELLING CORRECTION.
SA 2 - MODIFIES AVAILABLE DAMAGES.