When a person reveals that his or her company or organization is engaged in unethical or illegal behavior, that person is called a “whistleblower,” and has certain protections under the law. However, in many cases these individuals will face retaliation at the hands of their employer. When this occurs, it is important to determine what rights whistleblowers have in a specific situation in order to take effective legal action.
Legal Protection for Whistleblowers
The law surrounding whistleblowers can be very complex. In addition to a variety of federal regulations protecting whistleblowers, most states have their own laws providing protection for whistleblowers. It is very important that an individual facing retaliation for acting as a whistleblower seek legal help due to the complexity of the law surrounding this activity. For example, in some cases the victim’s attorney may find that their employer has violated both state and federal whistleblower protection laws.
In most cases, a whistleblower can seek compensation for employer retaliation that includes the following actions:
• Unfavorable performance reviews.
• Unofficial harassment, for example by isolating the employee from his or her coworkers.
• Reducing the employee’s pay rate or number of work hours.
• Attempting to intimidate the employee.
• Other actions that attempt to create an unfavorable work environment for the employee.
In all of these cases, the victim may obtain compensation for their losses. This can include the reinstatement of a terminated employee and the payment of damages for the employee’s financial losses and emotional suffering. In some cases, punitive damages may be assessed by the court for particularly egregious behavior on the part of the employer.
Whistleblower Law and the Statute of Limitations
When considering what rights do whistleblowers have, it is important to note that the statute of limitations for whistleblower lawsuits can be very short. For example, an employee claiming whistleblower protection under the Clean Air Act would only have 30 days from the date of the alleged retaliation to take action. Because of this, it is important that anyone who has been harassed by their employer take immediate action in order to avoid forfeiting their legal rights.
A central part of any whistleblower retaliation case will depend on proving that the whistleblower was harassed by his or her employer. Unsurprisingly, most organizations will claim that any actions taken against an employee were in fact unrelated to his or her status as a whistleblower. In this case, the whistleblower’s lawyer will work to establish that the actions were not justified by the employee’s work history. By establishing a previous pattern of favorable work reviews and positive customer feedback, it becomes possible to show that any disciplinary action was retaliatory, rather than being due to the employee’s actual job performance.
The freedom to inform regulatory agencies when an organization violates the law without fear of retribution is a central part of an employee’s rights. By understanding what rights do whistleblowers have, an employee can obtain the legal aid he or she needs. Those individuals who fear that they are facing retaliation should immediately contact the law offices of Eric J. Hertz, P.C. in order to receive the skilled legal assistance they will require in order to protect their rights.