HCS SB 788 -- EMPLOYEE RIGHTS

SPONSOR: Johnson (Barry)

COMMITTEE ACTION: Voted "do pass" by the Committee on Governmental Organization and Review by a vote of 8 to 1.

Under current law, a state agency or state official may not prohibit a state employee from communicating with his or her State Representative or Senator or require the employee to provide a record of such communication. This substitute applies this provision to communications of state employees with the State Auditor.

The substitute also provides "whistleblower" protections by requiring hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to implement a written policy regarding employees who report facility mismanagement; fraudulent activity; and violations of applicable laws or administrative rules concerning patient care, safety, and related issues. In its primary whistleblower protection provisions, the substitute:

(1) Specifies that supervisors and persons in authority at hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers may not prohibit employees from disclosing information pertaining to facility mismanagement, patient safety, or related issues;

(2) Prohibits these supervisors and persons in authority from threatening to use their authority to knowingly discriminate, penalize, dismiss, or retaliate against employees who acted in good faith to report or disclose mismanagement or other violations;

(3) Requires hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to establish a corporate compliance program for the reporting of claims of mismanagement; fraudulent activity; and violations of applicable laws or administrative rules concerning patient care, safety, or related issues and requires the department to verify that the programs adopted meet the standards established by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. All information disclosed to the program must be accessible to the Department of Health;

(4) Requires employees to report to the compliance program's designated person before disclosure of information to individuals or agencies other than the Department of Health;

(5) Requires designation of a specific person and an alternate person for administering the reporting and investigation process and provides employees with the option of reporting anonymously;

(6) Requires investigations of reports to be completed within 30 days, with notification to the employee; and

(7) Requires hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to notify the department when an investigation is initiated and, within 48 hours of receiving a report, to notify the complaining employee that his or her complaint is being reviewed.

The hospital and ambulatory surgical center whistleblowing provisions of the substitute are effective January 1, 2001.

FISCAL NOTE: No impact on state funds.

PROPONENTS: Supporters say that the bill gives employees a place to go when they have complaints. They would be able to report fraud, waste, and abuse. They would not have a fear of reprisal.

Testifying for the bill were Senator Johnson; Office of the State Auditor; Missouri Nurses Association; and Missouri Hospital Association.

OPPONENTS: There was no opposition voiced to the committee.

Steve Bauer, Legislative Analyst