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Laws Protecting Whistleblowers

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The Noble Law helps clients in both North Carolina and New York City navigate issues of workplace discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination and whistleblower retaliation. You have the right to be treated fairly at work, and their are whistleblower protection laws to help you out. If you have been discriminated against because of whistleblowing or retaliation, our employment law firm can help. Contact The Noble Law in North Carolina or New York City to schedule a consultation with an employment law attorney.

State and federal protections for whistleblowers

Employees who report illegal activity or other wrongdoing help to curb corruption and encourage organizations to act lawfully. Not surprisingly, these  “whistleblowers” often face unlawful retaliatory treatment.

At the state and federal level, laws protect whistleblowers from retaliation, and some even reward those who report illegal or unethical activities. These laws are important, but they do not always stop an employer from mistreating an employee who exposes the employer’s wrongdoing. Employees who face this kind of treatment should speak with an experienced employment lawyer about their rights.

Many laws protect whistleblowers who report workplace violations. At the federal level, there are more than 20 whistleblower statutes, many overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program. Just a small sampling of the laws containing whistleblower protections enforced by OSHA include:

  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
  • Clear Air Act
  • Anti-Money Laundering Act
  • Affordable Care Act
  • Federal Railroad Safety Act
  • FDA Food Safety Modernization Act
  • International Safe Container Act
  • Seaman’s Protection Act

Employee protection varies under each statute, so it is important to work with a knowledgeable employment lawyer who knows what path you should proceed upon.

Laws protecting whistleblowers in North Carolina

State laws often add whistleblower protections. For example, the North Carolina False Claims Act permits whistleblowers who are aware of certain state law violations to file “qui tam” lawsuits. The law covers reports of false or fraudulent claims for payment or other financial misappropriation related to state funds. Not only is a whistleblower protected, but he or she may receive an award based on a percentage of the recovery made by the state attorney general.

North Carolina has also adopted the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act. This law protects workers who file workers’ compensation claims, complain about occupational safety and health issues, or make complaints under wage and hour laws.

The common law also provides protection. North Carolina is an employment-at-will state, so an employer may discharge an employee for virtually any reason that does not violate public policy. When an employer acts against certain protected rights, the action may violate public policy, and the employee may then be protected from retaliation.

Laws protecting whistleblowers in New York

New York also provides for “at-will” employment, allowing an employer to terminate an employee for any lawful reason. Employees who blow the whistle on certain conduct, however, may be protected from firing or other retaliation.

State laws also provide protection. Section 740 of the New York State Labor Law prohibits retaliation against employees who report or threaten to report dangerous conduct or health care fraud. Employees are also protected from retaliation for cooperating with a governmental agency investigation into unlawful conduct or for refusing to participate in the employer’s improper actions. Section 741 of the Labor Act extends the protections to whistleblowers who report poor quality of patient care.

Given the many potential laws that could provide protection and the unique features of each one, do not wait to call an employment lawyer before taking action. An experienced employment can advise you on how to proceed while protecting your rights.

What is retaliation?

Termination is the most obvious retaliation whistleblowers may face, but any unfair treatment that is meant to punish the reporting employee may be constitute retaliation. Examples include:

  • Demotion or denial of promotions
  • Harassment or subjection to a hostile or unsafe workplace
  • Suspension
  • Discrimination
  • Unfair evaluations
  • Marginalizing the employee
  • Subjecting the employee to uncomfortable conditions aimed at forcing him/her to resign
  • Mocking or lobbing false accusations
  • Interfering with the employee’s ability to gain employment in the future
  • Exposing the whistleblower’s identity

Even an adverse action taken outside of work can constitute unlawful retaliation if it aims to discourage an employee from reporting illegal or unethical actions. Speak with an employment lawyer if you wonder whether your employer’s actions cross the line into retaliation.

Remedies for whistleblowers

If you face retaliation as a whistleblower, you may have more than one option to seek relief depending on the relevant laws.

If the violation falls under one of the many federal statutes enforced by the Department of Labor, you may have the option of filing a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. If the violation is based on discrimination, the complaint may need to be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The statute of limitations varies widely based on the statute involved, ranging from 30 days to 180 days.

You may also be entitled to file a lawsuit against your employer in state or federal court. A lawsuit could lead to an award of:

  • Injunctive relief
  • Reinstatement to your position
  • Back pay and interest
  • Lost fringe benefits
  • Litigation costs and other damages

Some statutes, like the North Carolina False Claims Act and provisions under the SEC and IRS, also permit the whistleblower to collect a percentage of the amount recovered from the employer as a reward.

Speak with an employment  attorney

A whistleblower lawsuit can be tricky and confusing. For example, your lawsuit may need to be filed “under seal” to keep information private during an investigation. If you were involved in the activity which you are reporting, it may be in your best interest to negotiate immunity from prosecution.

If you have filed or are contemplating filing a complaint against your employer and are concerned about retaliation, proceed confidently with an experienced attorney. The employment lawyers at Noble Law are here to help you understand whether a whistleblower lawsuit is a right move and how you can protect yourself through the process.

Noble Law serves clients in New York City and throughout North Carolina. Call today to schedule a private consultation with our employment lawyers. . We listen. We hear you. We understand.

The Noble Law – Employment Attorneys

You have the right to a safe workplace free of discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. If you are being discriminated against or harassed in your workplace, an employment attorney at The Noble Law may be able to help. We provide clients with legal counsel and representation in North Carolina and New York City. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced employment law attorneys.

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The Noble Law offers consultations and legal advice for employment issues at our Triangle and Charlotte offices, as well as video conferencing for remote clients.

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