Whistleblower Protection Applies to Statements Made In Good Faith

David Ohton, strength and conditioning coach at San Diego State University, was fired after he informed his superiors that the school’s football coach was drunk in public. He contended that when the school fired him, it was in fact retaliating against him for exposing the coach’s problems. The California Court of Appeal ruled that as long as Ohton’s statements were made in good faith, he was entitled to claim the protection of California’s whistleblower statute (Government Code section 8547). Under the statute, a protected disclosure is “any good faith communication that discloses or demonstrates an intention to disclose . . . (1) an improper governmental activity or (2) any condition that may significantly threaten the health or safety of employees or the public if the disclosure . . . was made for the purpose of remedying that condition.” The court also observed that if a person makes such a statement in reliance on hearsay evidence, as opposed to an eyewitness evaluation, the statement may nevertheless be protected as a whistleblowing communication, so long as the person makes the statement in good faith. The case is Ohton v. California State University of San Diego. A copy of the decision is attached.

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