Whistleblowing And What It Means For You
The term “whistleblower” is a term commonly used to describe a person who complains, or “blows the whistle,” on a company (or person within a company) who has acted or is acting in violation of state or federal law. The complaint may be external to a governmental agency or internal to the company itself. Depending on the specific circumstances, the whistleblower often is protected from retaliation including, but not limited to, discipline, termination, and other adverse employment actions.
The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is the federal agency responsible for enforcing many whistleblower and anti-retaliation statutes. Those statutes include:
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (90 days)
- Clean Air Act (30 days)
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (30days)
- Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (180 days)
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (180 days)
- Energy Reorganization Act (180 days)
- Federal Railroad Safety Act (180 days)
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act (30 days)
- International Safe Container Act (60 days)
- Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (motor vehicle safety) (180 days)
- NationalTransitSystemsSecurity Act (180 days)
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) (30 days)
- Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (180 days)
- Safe Drinking Water Act (30 days)
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act (180 days)
- Seaman’s Protection Act (180 days)
- Section 402 of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (180 days)
- Section 1558 of the Affordable Care Act (180 days)
- Solid Waste Disposal Act (30days)
- Surface Transportation Assistance Act (180 days)
- Toxic Substances Control Act (30 days)
- Wendell Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (90 days)
These whistleblower provisions contain very strict time limits for reporting a violation. The parenthetical following each statute shows the number of days a person has for reporting the retaliatory action. Failure to report the violation within the statutory deadline likely will result in the person’s claim being barred.
Who Can Be A Whistleblower?
A whistleblower can be anyone that falls into the statutory definition for the conduct alleged. Each statute provides protection for a specific type of conduct. For instance, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act prohibits an employer from retaliating against an individual for complaining about certain conduct made unlawful by the Act. The same type of conduct would not be protected by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act because the two statutes deal with completely different conduct. It is important to understand the laws applicable to your particular job/industry so you know when your employer violates the law. If you have knowledge that your employer is violating one of the Acts referenced above and complain about it, you may be protected from retaliatory conduct. It is critical that you immediately contact a knowledgeable attorney to determine your best course of action.
There are many statutes with whistleblower provisions in addition to those named above. If you believe your company is engaging in conduct that violates the law but you’re not sure which law that might be, you should contact an attorney right away to obtain more information.
Deciding if you should blow the whistle?
Deciding whether to blow the whistle on your employer is an extremely difficult question to answer. The best place to begin your analysis is to obtain correct information about your rights from a knowledgeable attorney. The nuances of these claims are many, so its crucial that you speak with an attorney who is well-versed in this area of law. The issues you likely discuss with an attorney are: (i) the specific facts supporting your conclusion that the company has violated one or more of the Acts; (ii) whether and in what manner the statute applies to you; (iii) whether the statute requires any specific reporting procedure; (iv) the foreseeable consequences of complaining about the conduct; (v) and remedies in the event the company takes an adverse employment action against you.
How Am I Protected?
Each statute sets forth how you as a whistleblower are protected. Most whistleblower statutes prohibit the company from taking any adverse employment action against you (e.g. termination, layoff, reduction in hours, demotion, discipline, etc.) for engaging in protected activity. In order to be protected, you must make a claim in good faith that your employer is violating the law. This includes employees who complain to their employer directly or complain to an outside agency. It also may apply to an employee who refuses to participate in the violation.
Want to learn more about The Illinois Whistleblower Act? Visit our blog!
Qui Tam & Federal False Claims
The Federal False Claims Act assists in stopping corruption against the government. This is done by rewarding whistleblowers for their knowledge of these false claims. Qui Tam cases are a powerful way for whistleblowers to help the government stop many kinds of fraud. Learn more about the Federal False Claims Act and Qui Tam cases by visiting our Qui Tam page today.
Call Today To Discuss Your Whistleblowing Case
If you are involved in a whistleblower case, it’s important to talk with an employment law attorney. Our firm will help analyze your claim and determine what the possible options are. You can expect transparency and honesty throughout the entire process. We are here to help. Contact our office in Menomonee Falls at 262-252-9122 or fill out our contact form.