It Pays to Have Expert Legal Guidance On Your Side
When you begin a new job, you don’t anticipate a complicated conflict or a bad ending. This worst-case scenario happens when your employer violates state and federal statutes and regulations. While some employees ignore or participate in wrongful activities, others step up and report what they see. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but a network of whistleblower rights protections covers you throughout your involvement in a case.
The whistleblower definition includes these employment-related acts:
- You or a group of employees contribute information about your employer’s illegal acts.
- You assist in an investigation, testify, or plan to testify during a hearing.
- You refuse to participate in work-related duties when you reasonably believe they are illegal.
Some employers see conscientious action as sabotage or a lack of loyalty. Although retaliation is illegal, they have no problem punishing you for taking an ethical position. If your employer retaliates against you because of your participation, their actions trigger protective laws. These whistleblower laws cover all employees, including temporary workers.
MJSB Employment Justice works with you before and after you take action against your employer. Our attorneys understand the complex network of laws and regulations. We listen to your story and determine how whistleblower statutes apply to your case. We address your employment issues using a flexible approach. We find the best legal solutions to protect you from your employer's wrongful acts.
An Overview of Whistleblower LawsWhen you report your employer’s illegal activities, you do so under a whistleblower law that covers your specific field. These laws offer awards for your assistance. They also include provisions that help protect you from employment-related fallout. They forbid your employer from taking action against you. If your employer retaliates against you anyway, each law provides additional rights and protections. As a primary protector of American workers’ rights, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration manages whistleblower programs based on 25 different sets of statutes. These include:
- Affordable Care Act (ACA)
- Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA)
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)
- Clean Air Act (CAA)
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
- Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (CFPA)
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)
- Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act (CAARA)
- Energy Reorganization Act (ERA)
- FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
- Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA)
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA)
- International Safe Container Act (ISCA)
- Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)
- National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA)
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), Section 11(c)
- Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA)
- Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)
- Seaman’s Protection Act (SPA)
- Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA)
- Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA)
- Taxpayer First Act (TFA)
- Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
- Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21)
- National Labor Relations Board
- U.S. Office of Special Counsel
- Commodities Futures Trading Commission
- U.S Securities and Exchange Commission
How Whistleblower Programs Work
Reporting guidelines and procedural requirements vary, but each law provides a consistent set of rights and protections.
When you report your employer’s illegal acts or participate in an investigation, you sometimes qualify for a financial award. An agency grants your award based on your contribution to a case’s success:
- You provided new information that they haven’t received from another source.
- Your information triggered a new investigation.
- You were in a position to have secured this information legitimately, usually as an employee of the business that committed the illegal act.
- You made attempts to address the issue with your employer.
- You didn’t obtain the information from a protected legal source.
- Your information isn’t subject to attorney/client privilege.
- You assisted in producing successful legal or administrative actions that led to penalties, fines, or sanctions.
Prohibition and Protection Against Acts of Retaliation
Your employer cannot fire you for “…any lawful act…” Also, they can’t initiate direct or indirect adverse actions, during your employment or afterward. In addition to a prohibition against firing you, each whistleblower law includes a list of prohibited adverse acts. These include demotion, harassment, suspension, threats, blacklisting, discrimination, and others.
When you act as a whistleblower, the involved agency protects your privacy and doesn’t reveal your identity. Exceptions apply to this confidentiality rule. The investigating agency will release your information if another government agency or law enforcement agency also becomes involved in prosecuting your employer.
A Complaint Procedure
Each whistleblower law includes a specific complaint process. If your employer retaliates against you, you must report their actions within the allowed timeframe. Otherwise, you lose your right to file a whistleblower complaint. Depending on the applicable law, filing deadlines range from 30 days to 180 days from the date your employer retaliates against you or commits an adverse action.
When you report your employer’s retaliation or adverse action, the appropriate agency investigates your case. They make a decision based on the available evidence.
If the investigating agency decides that you have a valid complaint, they issue a favorable ruling. Some laws require that they issue a ruling within a specific time frame. If the agency issues a ruling in your favor, they provide several options for “relief.” If they don’t issue a timely ruling, some programs authorize litigation in a U. S. District Court in your jurisdiction. You have this option only if you didn’t cause the delay.
If an agency issues an order and your employer doesn’t comply, under some whistleblower provisions, you have the option of filing a lawsuit to recover your damages in U. S. District Court.
Relief and Remedies
When you successfully prove your whistleblower complaint or lawsuit, the agency orders relief and/or damages. These awards serve to reverse the adverse actions your employer committed against you.
- Job reinstatement: This involves returning to your job at the seniority level you would have attained had the employer not acted illegally.
- Back pay with interest: Some statutes award two times the back pay owed.
- Compensatory damages: These often include expert fees, attorney’s fees, and other litigation costs.
- Punitive damages: Some whistleblower program remedies allow damages meant solely to punish the employer.
- Other “appropriate” remedies: Damages based on your employer’s adverse conduct.
Contact MJSB Employment Justice
Whistleblower laws protect you when you provide assistance during an investigation into your employer’s wrongful acts. Despite confidentiality provisions, employers sometimes learn of your involvement and retaliate against you for your actions. At MJSB Employment Justice, we provide flexible solutions that help you resolve whistleblower cases and other types of employment-related issues.
Our knowledgeable attorneys help you understand and comply with complex whistleblower complaint provisions. We provide guidance and feedback, and we help you meet appropriate deadlines. When necessary, we initiate litigation to recover damages on your behalf.