Wrongful Termination -- Employee Law

Are Whistleblowers Protected From Wrongful Termination?

Federal and state laws protect whistleblowers. So, you can’t lose your job if you report your employer’s illegal activity.

This article explains whistleblower protection laws. These laws vary by state. You should consider speaking with a wrongful termination lawyer in your area. An experienced attorney can explain your legal rights and give you advice about your circumstances. They can also help you file a wrongful termination lawsuit.

What Is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination is when your employer fires you for an illegal reason. Illegal reasons include the following:

  • Discrimination
  • Violating public policy
  • Refusing to break the law
  • Being a whistleblower

What Is a Whistleblower?

You may be a whistleblower if you report your employer’s illegal activity. You can make the report to a government agency or you can also go straight to the public. For example, a whistleblower could make an internet post or tell a reporter about illegal activity.

Whistleblowers promote transparency and accountability. They can also keep consumers and workers from getting hurt. Whistleblowers often face personal attacks and job loss for their actions.

Retaliation is when you suffer an adverse employment action for participating in a protected activity. A protected activity is an action protected by law. Whistleblowing is an example of a protected activity. For example, your employer can’t fire you for reporting unsafe working conditions.

Federal Whistleblower Protection Laws

There isn’t one federal law that protects whistleblowers. Instead, laws often have retaliation provisions in them. For example, you can’t lose your job for the following:

  • Filing a lawsuit against your employer if it’s stealing from the government
  • Reporting accounting fraud and securities violations by your employer
  • Reporting illegal activity by the government

You can win damages if your employer retaliates against you. For example, you can get back pay, reinstatement, and punitive damages.

State Whistleblower Protection Laws

Many states also have whistleblower protection laws. But these state laws vary. Some states protect public and private employees. Examples include California and New York. Others, such as Illinois, protect public employees. It’s essential to understand the laws in your state.

Generally, state laws protect people who report illegal activity. Illegal activity includes fraud, waste, and other wrongdoing. The laws also let whistleblowers file complaints with state government agencies.

How Do You Win a Retaliation Case?

Whistleblower retaliation cases can be complex. You have to prove that your employer fired you for blowing the whistle. Suppose you report your employer for paying less than the minimum wage. Then soon after, you get fired. You must show that your employer fired you because of your report.

The following can help you with your whistleblower claim:

  • Document everything: Keep a record of retaliatory communications and actions. That includes emails, text messages, memos, and performance evaluations.
  • Report the retaliation as soon as possible: You can tell your human resources department. You can also tell a government agency. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  • Consult with an attorney: An employment law attorney can explain your legal rights and offer advice.
  • Cooperate with investigators: Be honest and don’t argue with them. And don’t wait to give them the documentation they need.

What Are Some Successful Whistleblower Retaliation Cases?

Retaliation cases are hard to win. But they’re not impossible. Here are some examples of successful cases:

  • A state mental health agency director reported that the agency was overbilling Medicaid. The agency fired the employee soon after. A jury determined that the employer retaliated against the employee and the employee won $11 million.
  • A congressional staffer lost their job for reporting sexual harassment. A jury awarded $679,000 in a retaliation lawsuit.

Contact an Employment Lawyer for Help With Your Case

State and federal laws protect whistleblowers. These laws vary and can be complex. Knowing your legal rights is essential if you’re the victim of whistleblower retaliation. Find a wrongful termination lawyer with experience handling whistleblower claims to help you file a wrongful termination case.

Was this helpful?