Retaliation Against Whistleblowers
A “whistleblower” can be any individual who reports illegal, unsafe, or unethical practices by a company or supervisor. The term is derived from a referee’s use of a whistle to call out violations or foul play in a sporting event. These public-minded individuals are vital to stopping corporate corruption and defending a fair workplace for all of us.
A number of laws prohibit companies from retaliating against the whistleblowers who expose them through these protected acts. In Washington state, RCW 42.40 protects whistleblowers in state government positions, while RCW 49.60 outlaws companies from retaliating or issuing penalties against those who report them.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also has its own Whistleblower Protection Program that enforces protection laws in the U.S. and provides assistance to workers who experience retaliation from their employers after reporting something that is unsafe, illegal, or unethical in their place of work.
The False Claims Act and Qui Tam Actions
Whistleblower claims must be true, to the best of the knowledge of individuals reporting them. The False Claims Act imposes liability on companies (usually federal contractors) who defraud government programs. The law includes what is known as a qui tam provision, which allows people unaffiliated with the government to take actions on behalf of the government through whistleblowing and allegations of fraud. Under these acts, the federal government itself may get involved when an employee suffers from retaliation after filing a complaint against a federal employer. Those workers may be eligible for the following compensation:
- Reinstatement in his or her job
- Back pay at double the worker’s standard rate
- Financial compensation for attorney’s fees
Retaliation at Work
Employers retaliate in different ways against employees who file whistleblower claims. Sometimes the worker is fired, demoted, harassed, denied promotion, or placed under surveillance by colleagues or a supervisor. In many cases the employee receives undeserved low performance reviews or a harmful reference when they apply for work elsewhere. Any such action is illegal and entitles the employee to take action against the company. If an employer has retaliated against you for whistleblowing, contact an Emery Reddy attorney for experienced legal help. We know what’s at stake when your job is on the line, and won’t stop fighting until you’ve received the justice and compensation you deserve.