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The importance of whistleblower protections

“Whistleblowers” are employees who report violations of the law by their employers. The nature of the legal violations reported could be violations directed against the employee, such as if the employee has been the victim of sexual harassment, as discussed recently on this blog, or a violation of other laws, such as environmental regulations that apply to the activities of the company the employee works for.

Both federal and many state laws, as well as common law, provide whistleblower protections when the employee is reporting a violation of the law or filing a claim. Whistleblower protections prevent the employee from being retaliated against. Employees who believe they have been retaliated against must bring a complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and have 30 days to do so from the time of the retaliatory action.

To enjoy whistleblower protections, the employee must have a good-faith belief that the employer was in violation of the law and must bring their complaint concerning the violation to either the employer or to a federal agency. The employee will then be protected if it is later found that the employer was not in violation of the law. Under state whistleblower protection laws, the employee is required to report the violation to the employer or an outside agency, refuse to participate in the violation or help assist in an official investigation of the violation.

Laws can vary by state and because whistleblower protections can be complex, but are important to understand, it is essential for employees to be aware of what whistleblower protections are. Because of the importance of earning a living for most workers, they should always be familiar with their protections in the workplace, including whistleblower protections.

Source: Employment.findlaw.com, “Whistleblower Protections,” Accessed April 7, 2018


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