We get a lot of questions about the protections provided by federal whistleblower laws. Many people wonder what they are, whether they qualify, and if they are truly enough to protect against any unfair retaliation. To make it easier, we’ve provided a brief overview of coverage, limitations, and other items you should consider.
What Are Whistleblower and Anti-Retaliation Laws?
At the most basic level, they protect an individual from employer retaliation in the event they report any of the following:
- Environmental hazards
- Gross waste
- Abuse of power
- Negligent or criminal management
- And more.
They were designed to encourage people who were aware of wrong-doing to step forward, without fear of losing their jobs or livelihood. They specifically protect against an employer engaging in any of the following tactics as a result of an employee’s whistleblowing:
- Creation of a hostile work environment
What Requirements Do I Need to Meet to Prove I was Retaliated Against?
First and foremost, you must meet any of the state or federal timelines for filing. The statute of limitations varies by complaint type, so be sure and check with a local attorney about your state’s laws.
Also, you must prove all of the following elements:
- You engaged in a protected activity (i.e. whistleblowing)
- Your employer knew or suspected you engaged in this activity.
- You suffered an adverse employment action (like those listed above)
- Your engagement in the protected action was what caused your employer to take adverse action.
Is There Anything Else I Should Consider in a Whistleblower Situation?
Even if your employer does not retaliate in any way, shape, or form, becoming a whistleblower may impact other areas of your life. Depending on how your actions affected the company, co-workers may hold you responsible for fine, layoffs, and even jail time resulting from your claim or lawsuit. Is it common? Or fair? No. But it’s an unfortunate side-effect which has been known to happen.
Another consideration is the size of the industry you work in, and how readily available or marketable your skills might be outside of the industry. Many people find it extremely uncomfortable to remain in their current company’s employ after filing a complaint or lawsuit against them. However, doing so can mean you will have difficulty finding employ elsewhere.
In small industries, such as defense contracting, most people know each other well. You will be at the mercy of the rumor mill, and another company may not be willing to take a chance on hiring you. This can effectively force you out of the industry entirely; a difficult prospect if your skills and abilities are limited and highly specialized.
Still Have Questions about Whether or Not You’d Be Protected under the Federal Whistleblower Laws?
Find out what you need to know about federal whistleblower laws by calling our team at Bothwell Law Group at 770.643.1606 now.