California’s workplace protections for whistleblowers who expose public corruption got a boost from the Court of Appeals this month in Hoeper v. City & County of San Francisco. The court upheld a $5 million jury verdict for whistleblower retaliation for former San Francisco deputy city attorney Joanne Hoeper, broken down into $2.4 million for attorney’s fees and $2.6 million in damages for lost earnings and emotional distress.
Back in 2011, Ms. Hoeper began to investigate what she believed to be a kickback scheme happening within the City Attorney’s office. Ms. Hoeper alleged that the City of San Francisco was awarding millions of dollars in contracts to private contractors to fix sewers based on fraudulent claims. When her investigation pointed to the involvement of attorneys within the City Attorney’s office, she was retaliated against: demoted, transferred, and fired. A unanimous jury in 2017 ruled in her favor regarding whistleblower retaliation, and now a California court of appeals has upheld the jury’s verdict. It’s an important reminder that whistleblower retaliation is illegal – no matter if your employer is a private or public entity.