Whistleblowing: What It Is And How Employees Can Be Protected

18 October 2016
 Categories: Law, Blog


In order to fairly treat an employee while also providing a proper place for employees to report any illegal offenses by their employer, many laws and procedures have been enacted to protect them from retaliation due to reporting the behavior. This is known as whistleblowing in the workplace, and there are often many questions that employees have about the process and whether or not they will be treated fairly.

How Is Whistleblowing Covered Under The Law?

Whistleblowers are protected under laws governed by OSHA and the Department of Labor. These laws provide protection to whistleblowers and are dependent on the case at hand. One example is a law specified to protect more than one whistleblower in an organization. The laws are also dependent on the employer, the state the employee works in, and the scope of the whistleblowing action. 

How Are Whistleblowers Protected?

The goal of whistleblower protection laws is to allow employees the ability to report or testify against an employer when they witness illegal actions committed by the employer. One important aspect that can often be concerning is defining a whistleblower activity and matching it with a correlating law. States will vary when it comes to the definition of an activity, with some being broader while others are narrower. Employees who decide to move forward with a whistleblowing claim would be best advised to work with a lawyer well versed in whistleblowing laws in order to be fairly represented in a case. All possible whistleblowing cases should also go before an attorney to ensure they fall into the scope of protection laws.

What About A Statute of Limitations?

One of the biggest weaknesses of whistleblowing cases is the fact that there is a statute of limitations, which is typically quite short. Most defense attorneys will use this in almost all cases to have them dismissed. The beginning of the statute will begin from the point in which the employee realizes he or she will be a target of retaliation rather than the time of their termination or last day of employment. State laws will vary for wrongful termination cases, so it is important that the statute of limitations is carefully examined.

In order to prove that an employee was discriminated against due to whistleblowing, he or she will need to demonstrate how they were treated after a claim. Hostile attitudes, threats, and timing of termination are all things that can help an attorney prove that a person was retaliated against and can result in damages for the employee.