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Whistleblowers: How Employment Law Shields Workers

Whistleblowers are people who report illegal activity or unethical behavior by their employers. This often involves labor law violations. Speaking out is challenging. But whistleblowers are essential for maintaining accountability in the workplace. Fortunately, employment laws provide various protections for employee whistleblowers. This ensures protection from whistleblower retaliation.

In this article, we'll look at the rights of whistleblowers under employment law. You'll also learn how these laws safeguard workers who choose to report misconduct.

Whistleblower Rights

The specifics of federal and state whistleblower protection laws vary quite a bit. These laws aim to encourage workers to report violations without fear of adverse employment action. These laws aim to safeguard whistleblower rights and protect people who expose wrongdoing. Wrongdoing can range from abuse of authority to illegal activity in the workplace. State and federal laws provide recourse for employees who may face retaliation. Retaliation can be wrongful termination or demotion. Employees have the right to blow the whistle on various issues, including:

  • Fraud
  • Safety violations
  • Discrimination
  • Sexual harassment
  • Environmental hazards
  • Financial misconduct
  • Gross mismanagement of funds

Qui Tam Whistleblower Actions

qui tam action is a legal proceeding initiated by a private person known as the relator. The relator sues on behalf of the government. The goal is to recover damages for fraud committed against the government. Qui tam actions help the government recover monetary losses from fraud. The person who files the suit typically gets a percentage of the money recovered as a reward. This reward ranges from 15% to 30% of the total damages. But money doesn't always get recovered.

Common whistleblower cases involve:

  • Revealing financial fraud in corporations
  • Reporting safety violations in the health care industry
  • Disclosing unethical practices in government agencies
  • Exposing violations of consumer protection laws by businesses
  • Reporting tax evasion or fraud against the Internal Revenue Service
  • Revealing environmental violations, such as illegal pollution or hazardous waste disposal

State Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower protections are created primarily at the state level. While every state has whistleblower protections to some extent, they vary in scope. For instance, virtually all such laws protect public-sector employees. But, not all states extend these protections to those in the private-sector. Many states have separate laws addressing the private and public sectors. Some states have laws that give protections beyond those offered at the federal level. This ensures comprehensive coverage for employees who report misconduct in the workplace.

State laws typically allow plaintiffs to recover damages for any injuries suffered. Damages can include reinstatement and back pay for lost wages. Also, employers convicted of violating whistleblower laws usually face consequences such as fines. This serves as a deterrent against retaliation. It also promotes a culture of transparency and honesty in the workplace.

Federal Whistleblower Protections

Federal whistleblower protections contribute to fostering integrity and ethical practices in various industries. Several federal laws, overseen by the Department of Labor, offer protections for whistleblowers. One of these laws is the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). The WPA protects employees who speak up about wrongdoing in the workplace. For example, an employee sees their employer breaking the Safe Drinking Water Act. Reporting this to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is covered by whistleblower laws. Another law is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX Act). The SOX Act encourages employees to report corporate fraud. It also protects them from retaliation for doing so. Other federal laws with built-in protections include:

These laws empower whistleblowers to speak up without fear of retaliation. This contributes to a safer and fairer workplace for everyone.

Get Legal Help

If you're thinking about speaking up about something wrong at work, you should talk to an attorney. A whistleblower attorney can offer advice on employment laws and whistleblower protections. They can give you helpful advice throughout the whistleblower claim process. Speak with a whistleblower attorney or employment lawyer near you today.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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