Whistleblower statutes prohibit employers from firing or retaliating against employees who report - or blow the whistle on - their employers for wrongdoing. Federal law protects whistleblowers should they come forward to report employer misconduct, such as age discrimination or Medicare fraud to name a few.
Blowing the Whistle on Employer Misconduct
If an employer retaliates against an employee after he or she reports suspicions of misconduct at the workplace it may be appropriate for the employee to consult an attorney familiar with whistleblower claims. In these claims, the following factors will be considered:
- Was the employee engaged in a protected activity (for example, reporting discriminatory hiring practices)?
- Did the employer know the employee reported the misconduct?
- Did the employer take adverse action (i.e., terminate the employee)?
- Was the employee's report the main factor supporting the adverse action?
Some whistleblower statutes even provide employees with financial incentives to report employer misconduct.
Preventing a Whistleblower Claim
In a whistleblower case, the burden shifts onto the employer and requires them to prove that they did not retaliate because the employee "blew the whistle." The employer must prove the same action would have been taken even if the employee had not reported the employer misconduct.
Business owners may be able to avoid whistleblower claims by making sure the human resources department or an employment law attorney assists with employee terminations and other disciplinary actions.
It is also important for employees to know that they can report internal issues through established company channels. An attorney may also assist with establishing policies that allow employees to report issues and keep companies from having to defend against litigation.
Source: Fox Business.com, "How to Protect Your Small Business Against Whistleblower Litigation," Kate Rogers, July 12, 2012.