What Legal Protection Is Available For Whistleblowers
Even though whistleblowers should never fear repercussions, the fact is, they often do. However, there is legal protection in place for whistleblowers
Legally, no one can retaliate against someone who reports wrong-doing. Yet, when retaliation does happen, whistleblowers might not realize they can take action.
Laws Vary Based On Location
Individual states passed laws to protect whistleblowers before there were any federal laws. However, state laws vary greatly on what types of legal protection is available for whistleblowers. Some states only protect government employees or private sector employees. Other states protect both. Every state also requires you to fill out different forms if you believe your employer is retaliating or not properly protecting you from other employees.
Different Laws For Different Industries
Here’s where it can get even more confusing. Whistleblower protection laws also vary based on the industry. For instance, federal employees have different protections than publicly traded companies. The process for filing retaliation reports differs as well, such as whether you’re dealing with environmental issues or medicare fraud.
Understanding Your Rights
When you start diving into the legalese, you might feel like it’s impossible to protect yourself. After all, it can be rather confusing. Just looking at the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is enough to make your head spin. The first step is to speak with HR at your company. Often times, they can guide you on what steps to take, pro bono lawyers to contact and what evidence you’ll need.
If this isn’t an option, you’ll want to contact an attorney for a consultation to see if you have a case. They’ll better understand the laws in regards to federal, state and industry-specific.
Researching Your Legal Rights
One of the best resources for researching what legal protection is available to whistleblowers is the National Whistleblower Center. Not only do they work with whistleblowers inside the United States, but internationally too. They’ve existed for over 30 years in an effort to protect whistleblowers’ right to report wrong-doing without fear of retaliation.
The National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund provides legal services at no cost to whistleblowers. The organization provides extensive FAQs and research materials for better understanding your rights, knowing what data you need and how to proceed with legal action. If you’re not sure where to start, this is a great place.
OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program
If you reported wrong doing related to OSHA regulations, you should know that OSHA has a whistleblower protection program as well. When you report something to OSHA, your employer cannot legally retaliate by firing you, reducing your hours, demoting you, or harassing you. You can report the retaliation to OSHA. However, you only have a set time period to file based on what protection act(s) your original complaint was filed under.
Every employer should have whistleblower protections in place, but if your employer fails, you may still be able to protect yourself. Never be afraid to report wrong-doing. Just know your rights in the process.
For organizations, we recommend an anonymous hotline to minimize the likelihood of retaliation.