What to do if You Have Been Fired for Whistleblowing


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A "whistleblower" is someone who reports a violation of the law by his or her employer. The violation may be against the reporting employee, as with sexual harassment claims, or may be a general violation like illegally polluting, securities violations, etc. While the law is supposed to protect people for doing the right thing, often whistleblowers are fired after reporting the inappropriate situation. So what should you do if you have been fired after blowing the whistle?

There are numerous state and federal whistleblower protection laws designed to protect both public and private employees who are fired for reporting violations of the law. For instance, federal whistleblower protection laws like some of the environment laws including the federal Clean Air Act, Toxic Substance Control Act, The Pollution Prevention Act, and other OSHA Whistleblower Protections, make it illegal to fire employees in retaliation for filing a claim or reporting violations, including health and safety hazards, and financial misappropriation.

Similarly, most states make it unlawful to fire employees for reporting employer violations and other acts of misconduct. These laws vary, however, with respect to who is protected (whether public employees or private employees) and to whom the protection is afforded (such as co-workers and other business entities).

So let us assume you have reported an act of sexual harassment and rather than dealing with the situation, your employer has simply opted to fire you as the “troublemaker” rather than disciplining the sexual harasser. Or maybe you caught your employer violating clean water laws by dumping waste in an area that allows it to roll into local bodies of water, and because you turned them in they decided to fire you. What do you do?

Various statutes and administrative agencies will provide you with different procedures for whistleblower protection related to their types of activities. For example, you may file a complaint with OSHA if your employer retaliates against you by taking unfavorable personnel action because you engaged in protected activity relating to workplace safety and health. Similarly, you may have private causes of action (i.e., you can file a lawsuit against your employer) for violations of these laws.

If you have been fired for whistleblowing, it might be a good idea to speak with an employment lawyer who can advise you on a wrongful termination claim. A knowledgeable employment lawyer, especially one who specializes in whistleblower cases, can help you recover lost wages, back pay, and litigation costs, among other things. They can also tell you about administrative procedures that can help to protect your interests. Often, administrative proceedings will be prosecuted by the government, meaning you will not have to pay for it, but you can benefit from the government's nearly limitless resources in pursuing your claims.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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