To promote the reporting of illegal activity in the workplace, federal and state laws encourage employees to identify improper conduct at work without the concomitant fear of reprisal. Originally, the term “whistleblower” described an individual who reported the illegal activity of a corporation engaged in efforts to defraud the government. Since then, that term has been expanded to cover employees who reasonably believe that the activity they are reporting is in violation of the law or public policy. The following is a non-exhaustive list of disclosures protected by current laws aimed at protecting whistleblowers:
- a violation of the law or other rules and regulations
- sexual harassment, deceptive or unfair business practices
- racial discrimination and other violations of employment law
- gross waste of funds
- gross mismanagement
- abuse of authority
- a specific and substantial danger to public health and safety
- tax fraud
- falsification of loan documents, invoices and other financial documents
- violation of obligation to partners in a business or shareholders
- qui tam (The term “qui tam” refers to a civil lawsuit that alleges fraud against either the federal government or federal contractors.)
The whistleblower statutes prohibit a broad range of retaliatory conduct against the reporting employee, including demotion, termination, failure to hire or promote, intimidation, denial of benefits, and other actions that negatively affect the terms and conditions of employment. If a whistleblower prevails in his or her cause of action, he or she may be entitled to back pay, front pay, compensatory damages and other litigation costs, including attorney’s fees. Some statutes even award exemplary or punitive damages to a prevailing party.
But the decision to pursue a whistleblower retaliation claim under state or federal law can be complex, and many claims can have a short statute of limitations period. It is therefore critical to retain skilled counsel to determine which statutes are best suited for your whistleblower claim. With decades of combined experience, our attorneys are prepared to advise you at any stage of a whistleblower action – whether you are considering disclosure or have done so already and now face retaliation in your workplace. Our attorneys will work tirelessly with you to determine the best course of action, and help you reach a just resolution.