Whistleblowers are protected under the Law
You see your company is using fraudulent accounting practices and believe its stock is being handled much like a Ponzi scheme. Your first reaction is to bring it to the attention of the administration and demand a change in the practice. This written demand becomes public information, and soon there is a national outrage on how the company is handling its accounting. This 'whistleblowing' act receives public and congressional scrutiny; however, you cannot receive retaliation as the law protects your actions.
If you, or someone you know, have performed a whistleblowing act, are being reprimanded for these actions, and the employer is withholding your rightful wages then contact an attorney at Stop Unpaid Wages today. The Whistleblower Protection Act prevents employers from seeking retaliation against employees who have reported illegal practices. Too often whistleblowers are retaliated against and scared by threats, one of the major ways employers fight is by keeping your rightful wages away from you and causing you to go into debt while not working. Don’t’ let this happen and don’t be scared, let us fight for you!
What is a Whistleblower?
People who witness or see illegal or unethical activities occurring in the workplace and report these events to a government agency are called, Whistleblowers. These individuals, or sometimes group of individuals, are essential in the business world. There have been many violations that could have impacted thousands, if not more, of people if Whistleblowers had not reported the actions.
When your boss or the administration refuses to change policies you know to be illegal, you have the right under government law to report their actions. Whistleblowers have become important in today's business world which is why the government protects you against any adverse action affecting you as a result of reporting the information.
Whether you are an employee of a small local business, a large corporation, or the government, you are protected by labor laws that have been put into place to protect you and other employees. With the knowledge that not all employers follow all the rules and regulations, lawmakers decided there needed to be a way for employees to report violations or in other words, 'blow the whistle' on their employers.
Federal Government Protection for Whistleblowers
The federal CERCLA (Clean Air, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act along with the federal Water Pollution Control Act provide protection for you if you report possible health hazards in your workplace. This protection covers the reporting of any health hazards caused by your employer that will impact the environment or your workplace.
The protection is put into place if you have a good-faith belief the company you are working for is violating the law. Your complaint must be brought to the attention of your employer or a federal agency. You will be protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act whether your employer is found to be in compliance or not. If you feel any unjust decisions are being made and implemented regarding your job status as a result of this report, you can file a complaint.
Contact legal counsel to protect your rights and employment status. An attorney will help you file your complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and help you seek compensation for any retaliatory action taken against you. These claims must be filed within thirty days of the action taken against you, so contact your attorney immediately if you feel you are being treated unfairly.
State Government Protection for Whistleblowers
Most states protect your rights as a Whistleblower under general statutes or common laws designed to bar discrimination or retaliation. When you show good-faith belief that you felt your employer was committing illegal actions, your State Government will protect your employment status. You must also prove you've complained to your employer or an outside agency and have not been a participant in the violation to receive protection. You may be asked to assist in the official investigation and be willing to do so as part of your protection.
Contact your attorney for the specific protections available to you as each state is different. This information may also play a factor in whether or not you want to report the violation. You want to know how your employment contract is worded as it may state whether or not you have contractual obligations regarding the participation in internal whistleblowing. An attorney knowledgeable in your state laws will be able to advise you on how to proceed.
Another piece of information you need to know beforehand is your company's confidential guidelines. Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation for reporting violations, however; you want to ensure you qualify for that protection and are not opening yourself up to a possible lawsuit for disclosing information you signed a contract saying you'd keep confidential.
Your attorney can look over your company's employment contract and advise you whether or not you'll qualify for protection under the Whistleblower Act. An experienced employment lawyer understands these forms of contracts and will discuss your options to make sure your rights are protected.
How to Report a Violation
There are numerous ways a company can violate laws and regulations such as allowing racial discrimination, dumping toxic materials illegally, or allowing dangerous working conditions. There are also situations where employees are denied compensation due them or benefits they've earned. Violations can occur in a range of areas:
- Workplace safety and health
- Veteran Employment
- Wages and hours
- Workers' compensation
- Agricultural work
- Many other areas
Whistleblowers have helped uncover frauds and abuse across multiple business sectors over the years and helped others to receive better and safer working conditions.
If you've witnessed any form of action you firmly believe constitutes unfair or unsafe practice in your workplace, it is your right to report the information. The Department of Labor has been initiated to improve working conditions and make sure a worker's rights, welfare, and benefits are protected.
Speaking with your attorney prior to filing a complaint will help you understand labor laws and know which department within the government you should contact. The Division of Wage and Hour handles a lot of issues; including minimum wage, employee contracting, medical and family leave, compensation, agricultural workers, and employees of the federal government. There is another division which is assigned to handling working conditions. This agency is called OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).
The Department of Labor is broke down into a variety of programs and agencies which focus on related areas but are all designated a separate cause. Depending on the nature of the violation you've observed will determine which agency you will report the information to. Your attorney will know which department applies to your report.
It varies from complaint to complaint how the process works when filing. The difference stems from the laws applied to certain areas and the agency that will handle your report. While there are differences in the reporting process, there are also similarities:
- Before you report the event to authorities, you should discuss it with your employer. Many times once the incident is brought to attention, it can be fixed. Your company may not be aware of the problem and it could be completely unintentional. Give management the chance to correct the issue.
- When you report the incident or event to management, you need to keep a detailed record. Write down the date you spoke to them, if there have been reports from other employees, how many times you've spoken to them regarding the event, and any other details related to the issue.
- Check with your attorney to find out which agency would handle your complaint. This check can also include finding out how your company handles uncovering confidential information.
- Check with the appropriate agency to find out if they can handle your complaint, or if you will be required to report the information to a state agency before you contact the Department of Labor.
- Your complaint will have to be filed within a specific time frame, so make sure you follow these steps before you lose the opportunity to have your issues addressed by the Department of Labor.
Retaliation for being a Whistleblower
Not all employers like the idea of their employees reporting issues or events occurring within their business to the Department of Labor. Some appreciate the opportunity to correct existing problems, but some feel resentment towards the whistleblower and take retaliation. Some of the actions taken by disgruntled management include:
- Losing your job
- Negative reviews
- Pay cuts
The qualification for retaliation is any adverse action taken by your employer against you in response to your filing the complaint. Protection from retaliation is provided under the law, and it includes anyone who assisted you in the investigation or reporting of the material.
The protection against retaliation remains in place even if your complaint turns out to have no grounds for government action. This protection means should your complaint be found fabricated or baseless; your employer still does not have the right to retaliate against you.
Thankfully, you are protected from these actions. With the existing laws, whistleblowing is encouraged, and the laws contain anti-retaliation provisions prohibiting your employer from employing any form of negative conduct towards you or your position. OSHA is the agency that deals with employer retaliation and they enforce twenty-two federal laws.
When Retaliation is Unintentional
Sometimes employers will make changes in the workplace if they feel there is disagreement among workers. If you've reported discrimination action or harassment of any form and ended up being transferred; it may be that your supervisor felt they were doing you a favor.
If this situation has happened to you and you are not happy with the move; talk it over with your management. In these situations, your boss should take action against the wrongdoer, not mistakenly hurt the victim in their attempts to help them. If pointing out this problem does not resolve your issue, you then have grounds to file a complaint formerly.
Making and proving a claim of retaliation can be expensive and complicated. Get advise from an attorney to ensure your complaint is valid and receive guidance on how you should proceed. The agencies under the Department of Labor work hard to protect employees from retaliation, but it is not an easy task.
Your employer will be held accountable, and the Department of Labor will help, but it is a daunting process to file. Contact your attorney to know which laws and agencies apply to your situation, collect evidence, and ensure your complaint is filed within the allowed time.
Recourse if You've Been Fired for Whistleblowing
You are protected from blowing the whistle on illegal actions performed by the company you work for. If, for instance, you've been fired from your job for reporting the company illegally dumps waste into local water supplies, you can file a lawsuit. California laws for whistleblowers protect both private and public employees.
In 2014, California strengthened their Whistleblower laws by adding an additional three laws to the California Whistleblower Protection Act. The original Act already had protection against retaliation in place, one of the new laws expanded on this protection to include reporting a 'suspected' violation.
Another of the new laws added extend liability to anyone beyond the employer, including any who acted on the behalf of the employer such as someone within the management team. Whistleblowers are allowed by California law, to report any violations they witness, even if it is not part of their official job. This right protects them from being fired from their job by the employer or the company's human rights department.
Contact your attorney if you, or someone you know, has lost their job for whistleblowing. The law states you have the right to file a lawsuit for any damages you suffered from this retaliation. Typically in this claim, you will be entitled to:
- Repayment of lost wages
- Repair of a damaged reputation
The California State Auditor's office has detailed information regarding the steps needed to follow in filing a claim for damages incurred by retaliation.
Qui Tam Actions
Qui tam complaints are generally brought to light by employees of a company they feel have defrauded the government. These complaints are typically filed under seal, so the whistleblower's identity is protected. The whistleblower's identity remains hidden as long as the case is under seal.
The problem in these situations is their identity will not be kept secret forever. An employer is able to figure out who the whistleblower is by the questions asked during the investigation. If there was an attempt to resolve the fraud by speaking to someone in administration; these actions could also point out the identity of the whistleblower. If the actions in the case move on to litigation, the whistleblower's identity has to be revealed.
Once the identity is revealed, it not unusual for harassment or being ostracized by management being applied to the whistleblower. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, for the individual to continue working under conditions where both management and other employees display negative reactions to their being in the workplace.
Federal law prohibits any action be taken against employees in the form of retaliation for filing a suit for illegal or immoral acts they've committed. The law is very clear by stating 'any action' and includes terminating, demoting, suspending or in any way affecting their wages. If you feel you have suffered retaliation for your whistleblowing actions, you will show these facts:
- You are protected under the False Claims Act regulations during the pursuit of a qui tam suit
- Your employer retaliated against you as a result of this claim
- Your employer was aware of your qui tam action
If you have been fired or mistreated for filing a qui tam lawsuit, you are entitled to reinstatement of your position. This reinstatement includes being restored to the same level of seniority as if you had never left the company. In addition to reinstatement, you may also receive two times the amount of back pay you are owed plus interest. There may also be compensation for any form of damages you sustained as a result of the discrimination. Damages would include the legal costs you incurred and any expenses from having to bring a lawsuit to court including attorney and court costs.
Examples of Whistleblowing
These are some of the most common types of cases where whistleblowing has been used:
If you are being treated differently as a result of your race, national or ethnic origin, immigrant status, color, or descent, it is considered racial discrimination. Some employers use these factors to determine who they will consider for a job, a promotion, or benefits within the company.
Fraud is considered wrongful or criminal deception done to gain financial or personal benefits. This action can occur in any business sector including education, government, and business. Examples of fraud include:
- Price fixing
- Billing for services not performed
- False certificates issued by an educational institution
- Concealing violation or safety concerns
- Falsely certifying agencies
Corruption covers a brand range of illegal activity. It can cover embezzlement, kickbacks, fraud, and bribery.
There are a lot of policies and laws in place protecting you from unwanted sexual advances while you are in the workplace. These advances include obscene remarks and the most under-enforced.
While these may be the most common type of cases filed by whistleblowers, there are many others including those regarding safety issues. Some of the safety issues include the improper disposal of waste or expecting employees to work in unsafe conditions.
If you or someone you know is aware of illegal practices occurring in the workplace and are considering filing a report, contact your attorney first. Your attorney knows and understands the personal risks whistleblowers encounter when they step forward. Your attorney can protect your rights and safety if you are willing to take the risk of reporting.
Famous Whistleblower Cases
In 2014 Veterans Affair Physician, Katherine Mitchell blew the whistle' on the VA's manipulation of scheduling data. Through her efforts as a whistleblower, it was brought to light how the VA hospitals falsified appointment data as a means of covering up treatment delays.
The FBI Associate Director, Mark Felt blew the whistle' on former President Richard Nixon. Felt was able to uncover a web of internal spies, coverups, dirty tricks, and secret surveillance. Whistleblower, Mark Felt led the nation into what became the, Watergate Scandal and resulted in the unprecedented resignation of the President along with prison sentences for high-ranking Presidential aides.
In the mid-1990s, Daniel Ellsberg 'blew the whistle' on the United State's involvement both military and politically in Vietnam. He uncovered how the administration had lied not only to Congress, but also to the public. The charges, in this case, ended up being dismissed by a Federal District Judge who ended the proceedings as a mistrial.
National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden blew the whistle' by leaking classified documents which showed how the government collected information on private citizens. As a result of his whistleblowing, Snowden was forced to flee the United States to Russia. He was charged with espionage in 2013.
Army Private, Bradley Manning blew the whistle' on the United States Military. He uncovered classified diplomatic and military documents regarding, WikiLeaks an anti-secrecy group. Manning was found guilty of espionage by an Army judge and given a sentence of 35 years in prison.
In 1998, Linda Trip blew the whistle' on an affair between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. She released information showing Lewinsky had committed perjury when she filed an affidavit denying a sexual relationship existed between herself and the President. Trip was later dismissed from her Pentagon position. She filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department, charging them with retaliating against her for being a whistleblower.
Is There an Attorney Near Me to Help with Retaining My Unpaid Wages Due to Whistleblowing?
Being a whistleblower can either make you a hero or open up controversial issues. Contact Stop Unpaid Wages to speak with legal counsel to ensure the retrieval of your unpaid wages stemmed from filing your complaint. We are experienced with laws regarding the workplace and withheld income. Call 424-781-8411 to set up an appointment or fill out our contact form. You can also check through our website www.stopunpaidwages.com to see all the legal service available.