What Constitutes a “Whistleblower” Case?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of John H. (Jack) Hickey with Hickey Law Firm.

What Constitutes a “Whistleblower” Case?
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Whistleblowing is the term used to describe when an employee reports or openly complains about illegal conduct at work, usually by superiors. There are a variety of specific laws in place which prohibit employers from firing whistleblowers in retaliation depending on the issue.

Whistleblower cases arise when an employee is fired in retaliation for “whistleblowing” as a form of punishment or to try and cover up corporate wrongdoing.

If you have been wrongfully fired out of retaliation for speaking up about an illegal situation or violation of employee rights at work, you may be eligible to file a retaliation or whistleblower claim. It should be noted that these claims can be legally complicated and the details involved in their litigation vary from state to state.

Certain laws exist to protect employees from wrongful termination.

That being said, employers do not always respect these laws and if they terminate an employee in violation of one of the following laws, they may open themselves up to a retaliation or whistleblower lawsuit:

  • Workplace harassment and discrimination: These laws prohibit an employer from firing an employee for making a complaint to the company’s Human Resources (HR) department or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding issues of harassment or discrimination in the workplace.
  • Wage and hour laws: These laws prohibit an employer from firing an employee for complaining or reporting an employer for not paying minimum wage, overtime, providing legally required breaks, or illegally keeping a portion of an employee’s compensation including tips or commission.
  • Leave laws: These laws prohibit an employer from firing an employee for taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, workers’ compensation leave, leave for jury duty, or another legally protected leave category.
  • Health and safety laws: These laws prohibit an employer from firing an employee for reporting health and safety violations at work.
  • Worker’s compensation laws: These laws prohibit an employer from firing an employee for filing for workers’ compensation.

If an employer violates one of these laws and wrongfully terminates an employee, that employee may take legal action to recoup their damages from the job loss and hold the employer accountable for their illegal behavior. Common damages recouped in a whistleblower case include wages lost as a result of being wrongfully fired, reinstatement to their former job or front pay to replace the wages you will have lost until you find a new job, financial losses occurring as a result of searching for a new job, and attorneys’ fees and other legal costs.

In some situations, you may need to file a complaint with a government agency before you are able to file a retaliation or whistleblower claim in court. It should be noted that the government agency you would file your complaint with varies depending on the reason for your termination and the employment law that was violated by your termination. For example, if you were let go for blowing the whistle on issues regarding discrimination, you would file your complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In some states, laws are in place that allow an employee to sue their employer for wrongful termination when in violation of public policy. Public policy is essentially decided by what the vast public would agree is or is not morally acceptable, even if not explicitly included in the employment laws above.

Written by AskTheLawyers.com on behalf of Jack Hickey with Hickey Law Firm.

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