Whistleblower laws were put into place to protect workers who report health and safety hazards, illegal activity, tax evasion, and certain other actions that go against the public interest. Both the government and general public have a strong interest in encouraging the reporting of these types of activities so that they can be remedied. Therefore, Congress has passed laws providing protection for federal whistleblowers from retaliation.
What Laws Provide Protection for Federal Whistleblowers?
The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 are the main foundation for protection for federal whistleblowers. If an employee reports activities covered under the act to a supervisor or appropriate government agency, they have protection. Termination is not an acceptable response. Neither is a reduction in pay or reassignment to a less desirable position. Your employer cannot reduce your hours or move you to a less desirable shift. Finally, they cannot suffer indirect retaliation such as hostility from management.
Whistleblower protections are also embedded into many federal laws. For example, OSHA provides protection for federal whistleblowers making safety complaints. Presidential Policy Directive 19 protects retaliation related to an employee’s security clearance. Further, securities laws provide protections for workers in the financial industry.
What to Do if an Employer Retaliates
Have you suffered adverse consequences after blowing the whistle? You will have to prove that your employer’s actions stemmed directly or indirectly from your actions as a whistleblower. Protection for Federal whistleblowers does not cover an employee if the adverse action stemmed from unrelated job performance issues or an employer’s operational needs. This gives employers a strong incentive to misrepresent the reasons for any action they took against a whistleblower.
After making a complaint, you should save any written communications with your employer. Also, document the date, time, and nature of any verbal communications. If the employer takes retaliatory action and you made a complaint to a government agency, they will usually have a process for opening an investigation into the retaliation.
You may wish to receive financial compensation for lost wages or other economic losses as a result of the retaliation. Hence, you may need to file a private lawsuit against the employer. You will need to prove that you engaged in protected whistleblower activity. Also, you will need to prove your employer’s discriminatory motive. However, your employer can also introduce their own evidence. It’s important to understand that even if you believe you are clearly entitled to compensation, this is a long and difficult process. Therefore it can be difficult to navigate what lies ahead without the assistance of an experienced attorney.
Have you been the victim of illegal retaliation? Do you want to learn more about the protections that may be available to you? Contact Bothwell Law Group to schedule a consultation.