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Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

State protects workers
from retaliation

Question: What is the state Whistleblower's Act? How do you get in touch with state auditor Marion Higa on an audit of a state department?

Answer: The Whistleblower's Protection Act protects employees from retaliation or discrimination for reporting violations of the law (HRS Chapter 378).

Specifically, the law says, "An employer shall not discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate against an employee regarding the employee's compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment" for blowing the whistle on a violation or a suspected violation.

Chapter 378 says victims may bring a civil action for appropriate injunctive relief or actual damages, or both, within 90 days of the retaliation. "The court, in turn, may order reinstatement of the employee, payment of back wages, full reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights, actual damages or any combination of these remedies as appropriate in the case."

Collective-bargaining agreements, if they exist, take precedence in these cases, also by Chapter 378.

Meanwhile, auditor Marion Higa said 60 percent to 70 percent of the audits done by her office are requested by the Legislature, so you can try to spur an audit by contacting any legislator.

"When it comes from a legislator, it's usually in the form of a concurrent resolution," Higa said. Sometimes, it will be a proviso in the budget bill and, "once in a great while, it will be in the form of a separate bill," she said.

Her office can also initiate an audit but "usually, we won't do it on the basis of one phone call.

"Very often, it will be a number of phone calls about a given agency or given program that together leads us to think there might be something" to look into, she said.

The trick is to weed out an individual gripe from the many requests for an audit that her office receives.

"So, a single complaint doesn't always trigger (an audit)," Higa said.

If your complaint can be placed within "the whole context of current events, with other reports we've heard about problems with an agency or program," then that might lead to an audit, she said.

Also, her staff may observe something "that's not part of an audit, but it's something we will keep in mind for a subsequent audit," she said. "So, it's always useful for people to let us know their concerns."

You can either call her office (587-0800) or write to her (465 S. King St., Room 500, Honolulu 96813) with your concerns. You can remain anonymous.


To the managers of Mililani Pizza Hut for all their aloha spirit and kindness. My 5-year-old daughter and I had gone to Pizza Hut, where she was excited about using her school reward book reading coupon she had earned. For the first time ever she got to witness mommy lock her keys in the car along with purse, coupon and cell phone! We went into Pizza Hut, told them of our situation and and asked to use the phone. But seeing it would take time for emergency road service to rescue us damsels in distress, they took our orders, got us drinks, seated us and let me make a few more calls. They even brought a toy to keep my daughter occupied after we ate pizza. Once help arrived, I was told by the managers not to worry about the bill because there was none! Mahalo, Scott Casey and Ed Toledo -- you are angels. -- Sophie Robbins/Helemano Military Reservation

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