If you are considering reporting actions on the part of your employer that are illegal, then you are about to become what is known as a whistleblower. Whistleblowers perform a highly valuable service to the community, as they expose misconduct such as fraud, health and safety violations, and corruption. Becoming a whistleblower takes courage. Though calling attention to illegal acts offers the possibility of both moral and monetary rewards, it also raises fears of being referred to as a traitor by your employer or coworkers or of being subject to reprisals. Whistleblowers have very specific rights, and it is important that you understand what they are before embarking on filing a whistleblower claim.
Protected Whistleblower Activity
There are a number of different interpretations of what is protected whistleblower activity, but the general consensus is that you are protected against reprisals as soon as it becomes apparent that you might be a witness in a future legal proceeding against the company. This may mean that you have filed an internal grievance, contacted the media, refused to participate in illegal activities, or actually filed a whistleblower lawsuit with a specific agency. Whistleblower protections are designed to encourage people to take action to help enforce the law.
Whistleblowers are people who take action to report violations of the law. These laws may have to do with workplace safety, consumer product safety, financial malfeasance, and many other illegal acts. Filing this type of lawsuit entitles you to certain whistleblower rights, including protection from discrimination or adverse action on the part of your employer. These adverse actions might include:
- Firing or laying off
- Denying overtime or promotion
- Denial of benefits
- Failure to hire or rehire
- Making threats
- Reassignment affecting prospects for promotion
- Reducing pay or hours
Enforcing Whistleblower Rights
If you have reported environmental concerns, potential securities fraud, or any of a number of other illegal acts, you are legally protected from employer retaliation. Many of these protections are enforced by OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor, while others are protected by the Securities and Exchange Commission or individual states. The government has established a False Claims Act that specifically provides for whistleblower rights that cover employees as well as contractors and other agents. The law states that “if that employee, contractor, or agent is discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment,” then they are eligible for compensation. The relief offered may include reinstatement, double back pay, interest on back pay, reimbursement of litigation costs and attorneys fees, and more.
If you are in possession of knowledge about wrongdoing and you want to report it, it is important that you know that you are protected against reprisals. For more information on taking action against fraud or wrongdoing and what your whistleblower rights are, contact us today to set up a consultation.
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