What to Do If You've Been Fired for Whistleblowing
Reporting safety hazards at work or speaking up when a coworker is being harassed is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, some employers retaliate against a worker who reports violations or unlawful activity. If you were fired or demoted after reporting violations in the workplace, you may be able to file a claim under whistleblower protections.
A "whistleblower" is someone who reports dangers to employee health, safety, and discrimination, or other legal violations by an employer. A whistleblower may be an employee who reports sexual harassment, employment discrimination, illegal pollution, or criminal activity in the workplace.
Whistleblowers who report illegal activity, workplace violations, or those who cooperate with government investigations are protected from retaliatory action by the employer. There are federal and state whistleblower laws. You can learn about specific whistleblower laws in your state.
Federal Whistleblower Protection Laws
Federal and state whistleblower protection laws protect public and private employees who are retaliated against for reporting violations of the law or misconduct by employers. Some federal environment whistleblower protection laws include the Clean Air Act, Toxic Substance Control Act, The Pollution Prevention Act, and OSHA Whistleblower Protections. These laws make it unlawful to take adverse actions against employees in retaliation for filing a claim or reporting violations.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protects workers who report workplace discrimination and harassment. EEOC whistleblower protections can help an employee who is the victim of discrimination as well as other employees who report discrimination against other workers. The EEOC protects workers who cooperate with the EEOC in any investigation of discrimination or harassment from retaliatory action by the employer.
If an employee is fired, demoted, or subject to any adverse employment action because of protected whistleblower activities, the employee may be able to file a civil lawsuit to recover damages. In some cases, a whistleblower may be able to have their job reinstated and recover back pay.
State Whistleblower Laws
In addition to federal laws, most states also have whistleblower protections which make it unlawful to terminate employees for reporting employer violations or other acts of misconduct. If you were fired from a job after reporting safety violations, discrimination, or participating in an official investigation, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible because there may be time limits for filing a claim.
For example, in California, if you are filing a general whistleblowing claim, you must file it within two years of the alleged retaliatory action. Other states may have shorter timelines when filing a whistleblower claim against a state or government agency.
Some state whistleblower protections may include workers who report labor law violations. For example, if an employee is fired for claiming pay for minimum wage and overtime violations, the employee may be able to file a whistleblower claim to recover back pay, benefits, interest, and treble damages.
What to Do If You've Been Fired for Whistleblowing: Additional Resources
You can find more information about whistleblower protections from FindLaw. At FindLaw, we've compiled additional resources for you to understand if you are protected by whistleblower laws and what options you have to take your case to court. Click on the links below to learn more.
- How to Report an Employer to the Department of Labor
- Government Involvement in Qui Tam Actions
- Awards in Qui Tam Actions
Get Legal Help if You've Been Fired for Whistleblowing
If you have been fired for whistleblowing, you can speak with an employment lawyer who will advise you on a wrongful termination claim. A knowledgeable employment lawyer, especially one who specializes in whistleblower cases, can help you recover lost wages, back pay, benefits, and litigation costs.
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Contact a qualified whistleblower law attorney to make sure your rights are protected.