At almost every workplace, an employee will be able to spot some violation of the numerous employment laws that employers are subject to. Whether an employee is amused or angered by the violation depends upon things like the severity of the violation and how the violation affects the employee’s day-to-day life.
Regardless of the size and extent of the violation, employees should take heart that they enjoy whistleblower protections.
Whistleblowers play an integral role in the workplace. Without whistleblowers, many serious violations of the law by individuals and employers would never come to light. As a result, most employment laws contain some provision protecting employees who complain.
Generally, a whistleblower may complain about something that happens to them like sexual harassment or a wage violation. Or, the whistleblower may complain about a general practice by the employer that violates the law like pollution, or unsafe working environments.
For example, federal laws like the Clean Air Act, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), Safe Drinking Water Act, and Water Pollution Control Act all contain whistleblower provisions. Additionally, most states recognize a common-law claim against an employer who takes action against an employee after he or she has reported a violation of law.
To be protected under these acts, an employee usually must have a good-faith belief that the employer is violating the law, and must complain either to the employer or to a state or federal agency about the apparent violation. The employee is then protected, even if the employer is ultimately found to be in compliance.
If you are an employee who has reported a violation of law by your employer, and believe that you have suffered retaliation because of that reporting, you should speak with an experienced employment law attorney to discuss your options and whistleblower protections.