REPORT TITLE:
Whistleblowers


DESCRIPTION:
Increases the limitations period in which to bring a civil action
for injunctive relief or damages under the Whistleblower's
Protection Act from 90 to 180 days, and increases the maximum
fine from $500 to $10,000 for each violation.  Also makes
violators who are state employees subject to disciplinary
proceedings.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
                                            52          
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES                H.B. NO.           
TWENTIETH LEGISLATURE, 1999                                
STATE OF HAWAII                                            
                                                             
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                   A  BILL  FOR  AN  ACT

RELATING TO WHISTLEBLOWERS.



BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 1      SECTION 1.  The legislature finds that employees in Hawaii
 
 2 find it necessary to report violations or suspected violations of
 
 3 a law or rule by their employers which they observe during the
 
 4 course of their work.  Many of these alleged violations are not
 
 5 reported due to concerns by employees about potential discharge,
 
 6 or threats to or discipline imposed against them for reporting
 
 7 these violations.  Thus, violations of law may go unreported and
 
 8 uncorrected.
 
 9      The Whistleblowers' Protection Act, sections 378-61 to
 
10 378-69, Hawaii Revised Statutes, attempts to protect employees
 
11 against employer retaliation.  The Act allows a person to bring a
 
12 civil action for appropriate injunctive relief, or actual
 
13 damages, or both, within ninety days after the alleged violation
 
14 of the Act.  The Act also authorizes as possible remedies the
 
15 reinstatement of the employee, payment of back wages, full
 
16 reinstatement of fringe benefits, actual damages, or any
 
17 combination of these remedies.  Recovery of all or a portion of
 
18 the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorneys' fees and
 
19 witness fees, is also possible.  Other states, such as
 

 
Page 2                                         52          
                                     H.B. NO.           
                                                        
                                                        

 
 1 California, have also enacted similar legislation, as has the
 
 2 federal government.
 
 3      Although Hawaii's Whistleblowers' Protection Act does
 
 4 provide some protection from, and potential compensation for,
 
 5 employer retaliation, penalties for violations of the Act are
 
 6 relatively minor and insignificant, i.e., a fine of not more than
 
 7 $500 for each violation.  The penalties are inadequate as
 
 8 compensation or as a deterrent to future retaliation, when
 
 9 compared to the relatively greater penalties and losses incurred
 
10 by the average whistleblower for attempting to do the right
 
11 thing.
 
12      In addition, the Hawaii Whistleblowers' Protection Act only
 
13 provides a ninety-day period within which to bring a civil
 
14 action.  This may not be adequate in some cases.  Often more time
 
15 is needed for the whistleblower to gather the evidence to show
 
16 retaliation and to support the whistleblower's original
 
17 allegations regarding illegal activities; to discuss the
 
18 situation with legal counsel, union representatives, or public
 
19 support and interest groups; and to evaluate the potential
 
20 personal and career ramifications of pursuing further actions.
 
21 Thus, a longer period of time, such as one hundred eighty days or
 
22 longer, is warranted.
 
23      SECTION 2.  Section 378-63, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is
 

 
Page 3                                         52          
                                     H.B. NO.           
                                                        
                                                        

 
 1 amended by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:
 
 2      "(a)  A person who alleges a violation of this part may
 
 3 bring a civil action for appropriate injunctive relief, or actual
 
 4 damages, or both within [ninety] one hundred eighty days after
 
 5 the occurrence of the alleged violation of this part.  The
 
 6 limitations period shall not commence until all avenues for
 
 7 remedy under any applicable collective bargaining agreement have
 
 8 been exhausted."
 
 9      SECTION 3.  Section 378-65, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is
 
10 amended by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:
 
11      "(a)  A person who violates this part shall be fined not
 
12 more than [$500] $10,000 for each violation.  In addition, if the
 
13 person is employed by the State, the person shall be subject to
 
14 disciplinary proceedings by the department of human resources
 
15 development, if the person is subject to chapters 76 and 77, or
 
16 by the person's appointing body, if the person is exempt from
 
17 chapters 76 and 77."
 
18      SECTION 4.  Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed.
 
19 New statutory material is underscored.
 
20      SECTION 5.  This Act shall take effect upon its approval.
 
21 
 
22                           INTRODUCED BY:  _______________________