CFC Supports AB 1197 – Public Utilities Whistleblower Protection

Bill Update: AB 1197 (Hill) unanimously passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee on January 10th, 2012. The bill has been re-referred to Assembly Appropriations.

CFC Position: Support

The Consumer Federation of California’s supports Assembly Bill 1197, which
would require the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to establish a whistleblower protection program.

In light of the 2010 gas transmission pipeline explosion in San Bruno, the need for additional safety regulations is clear. Part of this effort to increase safety must include providing sufficient protections to whistleblowers who report safety concerns to the CPUC.

Under AB 1197, the CPUC will create a comprehensive whistleblower protection program. Although the Labor Code already includes a protection for whistleblowers, it is not sufficient to completely protect them from retaliation.

Moreover, current law does not address the issue of public utility employees reporting potential safety problems that do not rise to a violation of law, nor does it
protect former employees or third-party contractors. In order to ensure that these employees feel safe enough to come forward with their public safety concerns, stronger protections are necessary.

Through the creation of a whistleblower protection program, AB 1197 lays the foundation for those protections and helps to ensure that utilities are responsible with ratepayer money and that they continue to push themselves to provide safe and reliable service to residents of the state.