Whistleblower & Retaliation Claims

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The attorney-client relationship is a special one. We recognize the value of finding the firm that best fits your needs. Our National Employment Law Network can help locate the right employment law firm or attorney for your specific whistleblower or retaliation case.

Whistleblower and Retaliation Laws to Protect You

Every employee deserves the right to feel safe in the workplace. If you experience or witness any abuse of power, harassment, exploitation or other questionable practices in your place of employment, you should feel safe to report it. Reporting such acts helps to ensure a more secure environment for all employees, present and future.

However, before whistleblower and retaliation laws were enacted, some workers felt uncomfortable reporting any questionable practices or behaviors for fear of getting demoted, fired, or worse. Workers kept quiet and turned a blind eye, which only enabled these kinds of abuses to continue, affecting exponentially more victims.

As a result, legislation was passed to protect those who report inexcusable breaches of workplace standards. These laws protect witnesses or whistleblowers from any kind of push-back or negative reaction from bosses or employers.

How Do Whistleblower and Retaliation Claims Differ?

While both terms are often used interchangeably, whistleblower and retaliation claims are handled differently. The most basic difference is that whistleblower laws protect the general population from abuse or safety violations on a grand scale with regard to public safety, environmental safety, or government or investor transparency. OSHA standards at both the state and federal levels are in place to assist whistleblowers who report violations.

Retaliation claims, on the other hand, are in place to protect an individual from firing, demotion or other punishments by his or her direct employer. In most cases, an employee hesitates reporting a co-worker, boss or company for discrimination or harassment for fear of punishment in some way. They are worried they could lose their income or benefits if they report the violations. However, these are the cases protected by anti-retaliation laws. They protect the individual who reports such actions by ensuring they cannot be penalized with cut hours or salary, loss of benefits, firing, scheduling difficulties, etc.

What is OSHA?

OSHA is the acronym for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is a branch of the United States Department of Labor. This is the arm of the government which sets the federal legislation for all whistleblower protection laws.

At the federal level, OSHA’s laws protect against retaliation for those reporting abuses at companies and corporations at the national level. These include complaints about environmental abuse, public safety violations, wasteful spending of tax dollars, fraud on a broad, public scale, or violation of public trust in government.

In federal whistleblower cases, abuse on a grand scale is being reported for public safety or transparency. The federally-mandated protections granted by OSHA include anonymity for the person who filed the complaint. Often, a request for an OSHA investigation or inspection comes at the request of a current employee who believes they have witnessed serious hazards or compliance violations.

Most states also have State Plans for Safety and Health Standards as well. The requirement for states is that their plan be “at least as effective” as the federally-mandated standards, but many states go over and above those. Each state with their own safety and health standards list out whistleblower protections specific to their state.

What Violations Are Protected by Whistleblower & Retaliation Laws?

Every legal cases is unique in that the experiences and people involved are never the same twice. However, most will fall under basic categories of law, which helps to define how to pursue legal action.

The majority of employment laws exist to protect workers against harassment, discrimination and unsafe workplaces to use general terms. Therefore, the retaliation laws exist to protect workers from reporting violations under these protected laws. However, there are specific differences between each kind of claim.

Environmental Whistleblowers

Laws are in place for public and private companies in order to protect the environment from waste or other hazards. The most effective way to enforce these laws is to have employees report any breaches that they see in their day to day activities. As a result, there is a need to protect all employees from retaliation so they feel comfortable reporting violations. If you see or hear of illegal dumping, unsafe toxicity levels, pollution, or other violations of environmental protections, you need to report those immediately to request an OSHA investigation. You cannot be punished for reporting such acts under whistleblower protection laws.

Corporate Fraud Whistleblowers

Recent history has shown the irresponsible corruption and fraud in various financial institutions, resulting in far-reaching economic crises. In response, the government has passed two new regulations to prevent further fraud and misrepresentation.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) was passed in 2002 which requires publicly-traded companies to certify their financial status. This means they could be held liable for misrepresenting their company’s statements or other publicly-released documentation. With this legislation also comes protection for whistleblowers who report any falsehoods or intentional misrepresentation by their employers to the public.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform (Dodd-Frank) was enacted in 2010 to restore confidence in our financial system’s accountability.  This Act offers not just protection for whistleblowers, but also pays out rewards to whistleblowers who provide original documentation of any violations of federal security laws which result in monetary sanctions over one million dollars.

It is the hope that these federal whistleblower protections lead to more reporting of violations so the public will not be negatively affected by corporate and financial fraud.

Government Whistleblowers

The False Claims Act protects whistleblowers who expose contractors who defraud the government. Any worker, company or contractor who receives payments, grants or other government funds is held to this anti-fraud measure. The purpose is to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent reasonably on honest endeavors. Anyone who reports fraudulent billing or charging to the government for services is protected by this False Claims Act.

Federal Employee Whistleblowers

The converse to the False Claims Act is that sometimes the government itself is guilty of defrauding agencies or the public. Any federal employee who witnesses and reports government waste or fraud by the government agencies who employ them is protected against retaliation for reporting those violations. The Whistleblower Protection Act and the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act both offer protections to federal employees for exposing such government fraud or waste.

Military Whistleblowers

The Department of Defense relies on whistleblowers to ensure safety for all military personnel. Because the military is such an insular group, those who witness wrongdoing are more reticent than most to report it. However, abuse of authority, wasteful spending, gross mismanagement, or any other violation of law must be reported in order to protect both those who serve and the public they protect. The federal statutes that are in place to protect federal employees also apply to protect all military personnel from reprisal.

Discrimination Retaliation

Discrimination in the workplace is illegal and any company or employer can be held liable to federal anti-discrimination laws if proven guilty. Employment laws exist to prevent workers from discrimination based on race, religion, sexual identity or orientation, creed or cultural background. Because these specific traits are protected by law, there are also laws that protect individuals from reporting cases of discrimination.

Union Retaliation

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) exists to protect employees’ rights to organize and refuse to work in order to earn better pay, a safer employment environment and justified benefits. Whether a union exists or employees attempt to form a union for collective bargaining, no employer may obstruct such efforts or meetings. The purpose of the original NLRA was to protect employees of interstate commercial companies to ensure fair pay and benefits for the same job across the board. As such, employees must be engaged in interstate commerce in order to be protected from retaliation under the NLRA.

How to Prove Retaliation

Retaliation could come in many forms and can often be difficult to prove. Being repeatedly looked over for promotion, firing without cause, loss or reduction of benefits, are some indicators of retaliation. The best way to build a h2 retaliation case is to document everything. Dates, names and descriptions of the violations witnessed, quotes from conversations when violations were reported, and documentation of the dates and commentary surrounding the suspected retaliation are keys to a h2 case.

Let Our National Employment Law Network Find the Right Attorney for You

Experienced employment attorneys are best equipped to help you determine if you have a case requiring whistleblower or retaliation protection. Our National Employment Law Network can help you locate the right employment law firm or individual employment attorney based on your needs.

In cases of far-reaching whistleblower claims, we can help you find the right firm support your claims based on your state, the reach of the violation and the federal laws that may have been breached. For smaller, individual retaliation claims, we can help you locate the right employment attorney who specializes in protection from retaliation in your area.

Contact us today for access to our National Employment Law Network. Let our experience work for you.