Retaliation – Whistleblowing

We protect whistleblowers against retaliation from disclosing illegal activity

The illegal activity may be sexual harassment, or a violation such as unlawful pollution practices. The federal government and many states have laws protecting whistleblowers from retaliation for filing a claim or reporting a violation. Employees are also protected in most states by general statutes or common law from retaliation-whistleblowing.

Whistleblower Practice Area

The law protects people who complain about illegal conduct at work or refuse to remain silent about such conduct.

If you have made a claim of harassment or discrimination at work or if you have helped someone make a similar claim, your employer cannot fire, demote, harass, or reassign you.

If you have reported your employer to OSHA, the Department of Labor or any government investigator for conduct you reasonably believe is illegal or against a governmental regulation, you are most likely protected as well.

If you are a victim of retaliation after your employer’s illegal conduct, our team will try to help you keep your job, negotiate an exit strategy, or pursue a claim for retaliatory discharge or wrongful termination.

Whistle-Blower Laws

Retaliation-whistleblowing protections are designed to encourage employees to report unlawful or unsafe activities or misconduct by protecting reporting employees from employer retaliation-whistleblowing.  The idea is that an employee is more likely to “blow the whistle” on an employer’s nefarious conduct if the employee knows he or she will not suffer any recriminations as a result of doing so.

Whistleblower laws protect workers in a considerable variety of situations.  There are too many to address every whistleblower law in this article, but a few scenarios stand out as particularly noteworthy.  Employees who report violations of environmental laws or regulations are protected under the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.  Several transportation statutes protect employees reporting safety violations in aviation, navigation, and among other common carriers.  The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Dodd-Frank Act protect employees that blow the whistle on varying forms of commercial or financial malfeasance. And the Whistleblower Protection Act protects federal employees who report government misconduct.

Importantly, whistleblower laws are not uniform in defining to whom an employee must report misconduct to qualify as a whistleblower.  Many laws and regulations involving hazardous or illegal working conditions provide for reporting of violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”).  In turn, OSHA regulations provide protections for employees who report such violations.  The OSHA regulations cover over twenty different federal statutes, though, and the reporting standards can vary from law to law.

Some statutes require employees to report misconduct to a specific federal agency to be protected, but some protect workers who report misconduct internally.  The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that an employee who reports financial misconduct internally, but not to the Securities Exchange Commission, does not qualify for whistleblower protection under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, but is protected by the Dodd-Frank Act.

Wrongful termination claims arise under whistleblower laws when an employee is fired who has reported misconduct that is subject to whistleblower protections, and the reason for the termination is the employee’s report. The employee must have genuinely believed that the employer was engaged in misconduct.  However, in many cases, the protections still apply even if the employer ends up not having actually broken any laws.

The considerable differences among the various whistleblower statutes are important because an employee who does not meet a specific statute’s definition of “whistleblower,” or who does not follow the law’s procedural requirements, will not be protected if fired in retaliation for reporting.  Consequently, any worker who believes he or she has been fired for whistleblowing should consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.