Whistleblower Protection Public Health Emergencies
The act prohibits a principal, which includes an employer, certain labor contractors, public employers, and entities that contract with 5 or more independent contractors, from discriminating, retaliating, or taking adverse action against any worker who:
- In good faith, raises any concern about workplace health and safety practices or hazards related to a public health emergency to the principal, the principal's agent, other workers, a government agency, or the public if the workplace health and safety practices fail to meet guidelines established by a federal, state, or local public health agency with jurisdiction over the workplace;
- Voluntarily wears at the worker's workplace the worker's own personal protective equipment, such as a mask, faceguard, or gloves, under specified circumstances; or
- Opposes a practice the worker reasonably believes is unlawful or makes a charge, testifies, assists, or participates in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing of alleged unlawful acts.
Additionally, a principal is prohibited from requiring or attempting to require a worker to sign a contract or other agreement that limits or prevents the worker from disclosing information about workplace health and safety practices or hazards related to a public health emergency.
A worker who knowingly discloses false information or discloses information with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the information is not protected under the act.
A person may seek relief by:
- Filing a complaint with the division of labor standards and statistics (division) in the department of labor and employment;
- Bringing an action in district court, after exhausting administrative remedies; or
- Bringing a whistleblower action in the name of the state in district court, after exhausting administrative remedies.
The division is authorized to adopt rules necessary to implement the act.
$270,153 is appropriated to the department of labor and employment from the employment support fund, of which $206,193 is allocated for use by the division for enforcement of worker's rights related to a public health emergency, based on the assumption that the division will require an additional 2.5 FTE, and $63,960 is reappropriated to the department of law for legal services.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)