Whistleblowing, Retaliation, and Wrongful Termination Law

If you have complained of illegal activity in your workplace and this has resulted in the permanent dismissal from your place of work, you may have the opportunity to present a case against your employer. In the United States, you have civil liberties that give you the right and protection to exercise certain freedoms, including whistleblowing.

Specifically, you may have the opportunity to file a wrongful termination suit for whistleblowing or retaliation.

Many United States employment laws restrict employers from displacing a worker for exercising his or her rights. Workers are protected for whistleblowing, that is: workers are protected when reporting their employer or supervisor for breaking laws that could be unrelated to employee rights. These laws can relate to the following:

  • Product safety,
  • Consumer protection,
  • Fraud, or
  • Government contracts.

Edward Snowden reporting on potentially unlawful government surveillance, and Jeffrey Wigand reporting on the cigarette industry knowingly adding addictive levels of nicotine to their products, are two famous examples of whistleblowers.

This article sheds light on the laws and regulations that protect workers from retaliation and protect them as whistleblowers. Further, this article explains how to file a claim for retaliation or whistleblowing. If you have been displaced due to whistleblowing, know your rights and speak to an employment attorney who can help you champion for those rights.

What is Retaliation in the Workplace?

Retaliation occurs when an employer takes action against an employee who has attempted to report a violation on workplace laws. Some of the most common workplace violations include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of pay,
  • Sexual harassment,
  • Excessive overtime,
  • Unsafe workplace conditions, and
  • Other hazards.

While there are various government agencies tasked with enforcing worker safety laws, these groups don’t typically conduct workplace audits at random to find these violations. Instead, these agencies depend on employee complaints to discover violations they can then investigate. Even if a violation has been discovered, these enforcing agencies will rarely place a lawsuit against employers for breaking a law. In its place, agencies will likely follow the following procedure:

1. Open an investigation on the claim
2. Find the employer culpable of violating a law
3. Impose a fine on the employer or company

If an employee has been wrongfully terminated, he or she must file a suit to vindicate the violated rights.

Laws Protecting Employees from Retaliation

An employee may not be permanently displaced from his or her place of work for making a complaint. This includes making a complaint to the company’s Human Resources Department or the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The types of complaints that are applicable include discrimination or harassment in the work place. Further, an employee cannot be fired from his or her job for participating in the investigation of these accusations.

An employer or company may not fire an employee for making complaints either to the company itself or to the United States Department of Labor for the failure to receive appropriate and legal compensation.

  • Leave Laws

An employee cannot be displaced from his or her employment for exercising the right to take a leave. Under special circumstances, an employee can take a leave from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Workers also have the right to take time off of his or her duties to serve on a jury or practice his or her right to vote.

An employer cannot legally fire or penalize an employee who has filed a workers’ compensation claim for an injury that he or she has experienced while at work.

  • Health and Safety Laws

A person may not be permanently displaced from work for reporting health and safety violations in the place of work.

Understanding Whistleblowing

Whistleblowing occurs when a worker has reported unlawful conduct at the place of work that does not relate to workplace rights. An example of a whistleblower is someone who has reported fraud committed in the workplace.

An employer cannot permanently displace a worker from his or her job for “blowing the whistle” on unlawful activity that occurs at the place of work. Further, employees cannot be legally terminated for refusing to participate in illegal activity at work.

Being Terminated Due to Whistleblowing or Retaliation

If you have practiced your legal rights and reported an unlawful behavior that occurred in your place of work, you cannot be lawfully terminated from your occupation. If you have been permanently displaced, one of your best options will be to speak to an employment lawyer who has experience in the matter and will be able to champion for you rights.

Whistleblowing and retaliation claims can be complex and legally complicated. There are certain rules and regulations a displaced person must abide by in order to bring these types of claims forward. These rules and regulations vary from state to state. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help you determine if you have a valid claim.

An attorney will review the facts of your case, determine the potential claims, and assess the worth of your claim. An attorney can guide you on selecting the best possible strategy to defend your rights. This could involve negotiating with the employer, filing a formal complaint with a government agency, or filing a lawsuit against the appropriate entity.