Were you fired for telling the truth? If your employer is doing something that is considered illegal and you report it, then your rights may be protected under federal and state whistleblower laws.
There is legislation in place to protect whistleblowers. While each statute differs and is very specific as to what will be considered a protected activity, a whistleblower is someone who reports an activity that is illegal, unhealthy and/or violates public policy. There are more specific criterion on what can be considered reported violations of which trigger whistleblower protections that vary by the type of employer (for example, private employers, public employers, publicly traded, and by industry). To get a better scope of when you may qualify for protection against retaliation in a whistleblowing case, an employee must answer these questions first.
What laws cover retaliation if you are a whistleblower?
One of the first things a whistleblower should do is determine if state and/or federal whistleblower protections offer a remedy for the situation. In addition, there are also laws that cover both traditional tort or contract damages after retaliation for whistleblowing.
Activities considered retaliation 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
If you have experienced any one of these from your employer, it’s time to seek help for retaliation. Whistleblowers can sometimes collect damages when faced with retaliation from an employer.
What activities of whistleblowers are protected?
There are some federal and state protections for public, private, and government employees, but it’s a good idea to take a closer look at laws in your state. Whistleblower protections vary widely by state, and Florida whistleblower laws offer protections for employees of both public and private companies.
“An employer may not take retaliatory personnel action against an employee because the employee has disclosed or threatened to disclose to a government agency an activity, policy or practice that is in violation of a law….”
This is what the law states pertaining to retaliation for whistleblowers, and it also provides even more guidelines about what can be considered retaliation.
What statutes offer federal protections for whistleblowers?
There are various types of whistleblowers, and OSHA enforces a long list of federal statutes offering whistleblowers protections. If an employer puts you or others’ lives in danger by violating health and safety codes, then oftentimes there are specific guidelines that address when a whistleblower is protected. There are protections under separate acts that protect employees who report unsanitary conditions in food service, pollution or toxic substances that endanger the environment, and transportation safety issues on the job.
How do you go about filing a complaint?
If you have exercised your rights as an employee (as stated in state or federal law), then it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you. To file a complaint alleging retaliation or a complaint with the entity charged with enforcing certain laws or internal complaints, particularly in regard to private employers, you will first need to consult an attorney to get a better understanding of your situation. If your employer is doing something they know is illegal, it’s likely they are not going to be happy when you file a formal complaint.
It’s always a good idea to meet with a lawyer in a confidential consultation to get an overview of all the laws and protections that apply to your case. This could protect you later and help you prepare to file a formal complaint, if necessary.
Have you or someone you know been the victim of retaliation? Get a better understanding of the laws that apply to your case by speaking with an experienced employment law attorney. Contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., for a free consultation.