Whistleblowers – Fear Not
Over the past few months I have spoke with a number of individuals who have experienced retaliation because of their whistleblowing activities. A whistleblower is an employee who reports his or her employer’s misconduct to a federal and/or state agency. An employer’s misconduct may consist of violations of law, agency rules and/or other activity which is a direct threat to the public.
It is inspiring to know that employees are willing to stand up to powerful corporations and report illegal activity. However, I can’t help but think that many employees remain silent because they are fearful they will loose their jobs and/or other benefits if they report their employer’s misconduct. To those individuals I say “fear not” because state and federal laws will protect you from employer retaliation.
There are a variety of federal statutes which protect whistleblowers.http://whistleblowerlaws.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=141&Itemid=54. Further, unlike some state laws, certain federal laws extend whistleblowing activities to internal reporting. Individuals may be protected under more than one of these statutes therefore it is important for a whistleblower to consult an attorney to determine which may be the most applicable.
State laws also protect whistleblowers. In Washington, only public employees are specifically protected by statute. However, both public and private employees are protected by case law. An employer cannot terminate an employee for reporting misconduct to an outside agency because it is against public policy. Any employee terminated in WA under these circumstances has three years to bring suit against his or her employer for wrongful termination. (Please visit the following site to reference other state whistleblowing laws –http://www.ncsl.org/programs/employ/whistleblower.htm.
It is always difficult for an employee to stand up to his or her employer, particularly in these tough economic times. However, if an employee is brave enough to report wrongdoing, then it only makes sense that we protect them from retaliation.