Many employees are worried they will be fired for reporting an employer’s unsafe or illegal business practices to the authorities. What they may not know is that retaliation against whistleblowers is illegal under a variety of state and federal laws, and that an employee who has suffered retaliation is usually eligible for job reinstatement and many other benefits.
Federal Laws That Protect Whistleblowers from Retaliation
From sexual harassment and wage violations to embezzlement and safety violations, there are many reasons why whistleblowers step forward to protect themselves and fellow workers. By law, they shouldn't be concerned about employer retaliation, but if it occurs, they have additional support.
Employees may be able to recover remuneration for their legal fees, damages resulting from employer retaliation, and even charge employers with criminal offenses under some of the following:
- Occupational Health and Safety Act. Section 11(c) of this act prevents retaliation against employees who report safety concerns, environmental dangers, or adverse health conditions in the workplace.
- False Claims Act (FCA). The FCA allows the Department of Justice to sue any government contractor who attempts to defraud the United States. As this protection involves the interests of the U.S. government, whistleblowers are actually encouraged to provide information on illegal activities of current or former employers. The FCA allows whistleblowers to sue employers on behalf of the government for misconduct. If successful, the employee may be awarded a percentage of the total damages recovered on behalf of the government and all attorney fees—and the employer is still prevented from terminating or discriminating against the employee.
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This act prevents discrimination of whistleblowers who report corporate misconduct or cooperate in investigations of securities violations. In fact, the act requires companies to implement and use reporting channels so employees can offer information and tips anonymously. If companies fail to create or maintain a whistleblower tip line, the company may be removed from listing on national securities exchanges. Finally, the act allows civil and criminal penalties for companies that and employers who retaliate against whistleblowers who provide information on potential federal offenses.
- Dodd-Frank Act. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was established in 2010 to improve “accountability and transparency in the financial system.” This act encourages whistleblowing by offering an award to anyone who volunteers useful information to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that results in sanctions over $1 million. Not only does the act prohibit employer retaliation, it also allows whistleblowers to file civil retaliation suits against a company.
If you've suffered employer retaliation after reporting safety violations or filing for workers’ comp, we can help. Contact us by phone, or fill out the form on this page to arrange for a free consultation with a Florida injury attorney.