A person is considered a "whistleblower" if they report a violation of the law by their employer. There are legal protections in place to help protect the rights of workers who report their employer’s workplace violations or discriminatory practices. The federal government and states have laws which protect whistleblowers from unjust retaliation for filing a claim or reporting their employer’s violation. Additionally, most states recognize common-law claims against employers who take unfavorable actions against an employee for reporting a violation.
The following federal acts contain protections for whistleblowers who report health or environmental hazards caused by their employer:
- Clean Air Act
- Comprehensive Environmental Response
- Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
- Energy Reorganization Act
- Safe Drinking Water Act
- Solid Waste Disposal Act
- Toxic Substance Control Act
- Water Pollution Control Act
To be protected by the provision of these acts, the whistleblower must have a good-faith belief that their employer is violating the law, and must make their complaint to their employer or to a federal agency. Even if the employer winds up being in compliance with the law, the employee is still legally protected from unlawful retaliation. If the employee thinks they have been retaliated against for their complaint, they need to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration within thirty days of the retaliatory action.
However, if you plan to report a labor violation, you should be aware of provisions that apply to confidentiality. While whistleblowers are protected against retaliation from their employers, certain job disclosures and documents that you might have signed can expose you to the risk of a lawsuit for disclosing the company's confidential information.
Do you have more questions about what your rights are as a whistleblower? Contact our DC team of federal employment attorneys to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.