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California Whistleblower Protection Act

About the Whistleblower Protection Act

The California Whistleblower Protection Act authorizes the California State Auditor to receive complaints from state employees and from members of the public who wish to report improper state government activity. The Act also protects every state employee who files a complaint from suffering any retaliation by their state employer for having made the complaint.

The Whistleblower Protection Act forbids every state official and employee from retaliating or attempting to retaliate against any employee or applicant for employment who reports an improper activity. Retaliation includes intimidation, the denial of appointment or promotion, a threat of adverse action, a poor performance evaluation, involuntary transfer, or any form of disciplinary action.

The California State Auditor does not provide remedies for retaliation. That responsibility has been assigned to other agencies. If you believe you are the victim of retaliation as a result of filing a whistleblower complaint with the California State Auditor’s Office, you may obtain assistance from the following resources:


If you are a state employee, you may report retaliation by contacting the State Personnel Board, in writing, at 801 Capitol Mall, MS53, Sacramento, CA 95814. For information about making a report call (916) 653-0799.


If you are an employee of the University of California, you may report retaliation by contacting your human resources department or the designated official for the campus where the retaliation occurred. For more information on the UC’s website.


If you are an employee of the California State University, you may report retaliation by contacting the vice chancellor for human resources, in writing, at 401 Golden Shore, Long Beach, CA 90802. For information about making a report call (562) 951-4425.

The California State Auditor’s Investigations team looks into the complaints and conducts confidential investigations. All investigations are completely confidential unless the California State Auditor issues a public report. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who may file complaints with the State Auditor?
  1. State employees.
  2. Internal auditors of state agencies.
  3. Anyone else, including members of the public, contractors who do business with the State, job applicants, and persons obtaining services from the State.
Who can the State Auditor investigate?
  1. Every office, department, division, bureau, board, and commission in the executive and judicial branches of state government, including the courts.
  2. Any employee of the executive and judicial branches of state government, including elected constitutional officers, appointed state officials, and state civil service employees.
Who can the State Auditor not investigate?
  1. Members of the legislative branch of government, including state senators, assembly members, and legislative staff.
  2. Local government agencies and employees, including county, city, and school district employees and officials.
  3. Federal government agencies and employees, including federal officials.
  4. Private entities such as businesses and nonprofit organizations, or their employees.
What can the State Auditor investigate?
  1. Any violation of state or federal law (including regulations) by a state agency or employee.
  2. Noncompliance with an executive order of the Governor, a Rule of Court, the State Administrative Manual, or the State Contracting Manual.
  3. Significant waste or misuse of state resources, including funds, property, and employee time.
  4. Gross misconduct, incompetency, or inefficiency by a state employee.
What are some examples of improper conduct recently investigated by the State Auditor?
  1. Embezzlement
  2. Improper contracting
  3. Misuse of state property
  4. Conflicts of interest
  5. Improper overtime
  6. Improper expense reimbursements
  7. False time and attendance reporting by state employees
May I file a complaint anonymously?

You have a right to file a complaint without providing us with your name or any other information about who you are and how we may contact you. However, we may not be able to investigate your complaint if we cannot talk with you to confirm the information you provide or obtain additional information. Please remember that if you identify yourself to us we will not reveal your identity to anyone else without your permission, except to appropriate law enforcement personnel who are conducting a criminal investigation. If we publish a report about our findings, whistleblower information is kept confidential.

What should I include in my complaint?

We will not undertake an investigation unless we have a basis for believing that your complaint has sufficient merit to warrant the expenditure of resources on an investigation. You should therefore include a clear statement of what you believe the improper activity to be, why you believe the activity is improper, who is involved, and what evidence we may examine to confirm that what you are alleging is true. Your complaint should therefore include the following:

  1. A clear and concise statement of what you are alleging to be improper activity and why you believe it is improper.
  2. The name or other information that clearly identifies the person whom you are alleging has acted improperly and the department where that person works.
  3. The names and contact information for any witnesses who can confirm the truth of what you are saying.
  4. Copies of any documents that will support what you are saying. Please do not submit original documents, since we cannot return them.
What happens after I file a complaint?

We will evaluate your complaint to determine whether it has sufficient merit to warrant an investigation. If we launch an investigation in response to your complaint, we will perform the investigation confidentially. This means that we will not report to you or anyone else about the progress of the investigation or what the investigation has found. The investigation will remain confidential unless the California State Auditor issues a report on the investigation. If we need additional information from you, we will contact you.

What can the State Auditor do if the improper activity is substantiated?
  1. Issue a confidential report to the head of the agency that is involved.
  2. Confidentially report the matter to the Attorney General, the Legislature, or any other entity having jurisdiction over the matter.
  3. Issue a public report on the matter, keeping confidential the identities of the individuals involved.
  4. The California State Auditor does not have enforcement powers and cannot order a department or official to take any action.


Complaints received by the California State Auditor are confidential

The identity of the complainant may not be revealed without their permission except to an appropriate law enforcement agency conducting a criminal investigation. Any investigation resulting from the complaint is confidential. The State Auditor’s staff cannot provide any updates about what is being done to investigate the complaint or what information has been uncovered. Information about the investigation will not be released unless the State Auditor substantiates that an improper activity has occurred and issues a public report about it. State employees who file a complaint are entitled to protection against retaliation by their employers for filing the complaint.

File a complaint by telephone

You may call our Whistleblower Hotline at (800) 952-5665 and file a complaint with one of the State Auditor’s employees. The hotline is staffed Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you call when the hotline is not staffed, or when staff is occupied with other calls, you may leave a voicemail message requesting a return call.

File a complaint by postal mail

You may file a complaint in the form of a letter to the State Auditor addressed as follows:

Investigations California State Auditor
P.O. Box 1019
Sacramento, CA 95812

File a complaint by facsimile/FAX

You may fax the letter to the State Auditor at (916) 322-2603. As an alternative, you may complete the electronic version of our complaint form. Print it out, and return it by mail or facsimile as stated above.

State Agencies

Annual notification to employees

State agencies have two main ongoing responsibilities regarding the Whistleblower Protection Act (the “Act”). First, under California Government Code section 8548.2, each state agency must print notices distributed by the California State Auditor containing information concerning the Act and must post the notices in locations where other employee notices are maintained. Second, under Government Code section 8548.3 each state agency must send the information contained in the notice by electronic mail to all of its employees annually. Every year, the State Auditor issues an updated notification in the form of a poster, a memorandum for distribution to agency employees, and notification to departments to facilitate compliance with these responsibilities. The poster (also available in letter size), brochure, and compliance checklist may be downloaded here.

In addition, under section 20080 of the State Administrative Manual, state entities must notify the State Auditor’s Office and the Department of Finance of all cases of actual or suspected fraud, embezzlement, theft, or other irregularities. The notification should be in writing and provided no later than the first business day following the discovery of any such incident.

File a complaint against a California State Auditor employee

Complaints alleging improper governmental activities by employees of the California State Auditor’s Office are investigated by an independent investigator selected by the Department of Justice. You may file a complaint in the following ways:

  • Electronically through the Online Complaint Form
  • By Telephone at (619) 738-9525
  • By Mail at
    State Auditor Whistleblower
    Attention: Chris Knudsen, Senior Assistant Attorney General
    1300 I Street
    Sacramento, CA 95814
  • By Email at
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