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What Protections Do I Have As A Whistleblower? Best Lawyer Answer!

| Jul 31, 2015 | Firm News, Whistleblower Claims, Wrongful Termination |

Ohio Whistleblower Attorney Best Answer: Do I have a wrongful termination claim if I was fired within a few weeks of reporting dangerous work conditions or illegal activity? Can my employer retaliate against me for being a whistleblower? Should I seek advice from a lawyer if I think I may have a whistleblower claim against my employer?

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In general, a whistleblower can be any person who reports illegal, fraudulent, or criminal activity by an employer to someone in a position of authority or to the public. Because employees often have inside knowledge of an employer’s business and/or day-to-day operations, etc., it is very common that whistleblowers are current employees of the entity that is being accused of wrongdoing. In other words, an employee who learns that his employer may be involved in a unsafe, unlawful, illegal, or criminal activity may be put in a position of having to “tell on” his/her employer.

Employees who report such claims may risk retaliation by their employers, including wrongful termination. However, the good news is that there are both state and federal laws that offer protections for whistleblowers. In short, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for reporting a whistleblower claim.

Most Ohio whistleblowers claims fall under Ohio Revised Code §4113.52, which makes it unlawful to take any disciplinary or retaliatory action, including firing, against an employee for reporting a whistleblower claim. Forms of retaliation may include, but are not limited to: discharge or termination of employment; suspension; being transferred; or being denied a promotion or salary increases. For example, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for any of the following: reporting unsafe working conditions; reporting suspected illegal conduct; testifying truthfully against an employer; filing a workers’ compensation claim; for having consulted an attorney about possible claims or lawsuits.

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However, because Ohio’s whistleblower statute (Ohio R.C §4113.52) has specific requirements that must be followed, potential whistleblowers should seek legal advice the right employment attorney to help ensure that the law will be there to protect them.

For example, it is highly important to know that an employee’s complaint must be made orally and in writing to their supervisor or another management level employee.

To help ensure that a reporting employee will be qualified for the protections offered by Ohio’s whistleblower statute, it is suggested that potential whistleblowers seek proper legal consultation from a skilled attorney can help employees faced with whistleblower situations by:

  1. Advising whether a particular employee and/or event being reported qualify for protection under state and/or federal whistleblower law;
  2. Advising as to the best methods for reporting and documenting whistleblower claims; and,
  3. Helping to protect against the occurrence of relation, and/or to respond to instances of employer retaliation by making all relevant legal claims to protect the employee – which could include money damages.

One of the seminal cases on point is Fox v. City of Bowling Green, in which the Ohio Supreme Court held:

We hold that to gain the protection of R.C. 4113.52(A)(3), an employee need not show that a co-worker had actually violated a statute, city ordinance, work rule, or company policy; it is sufficient that the employee had a reasonable belief that a violation occurred.

Ohio’s Whistleblower statute provides an employee protection from employer retaliation under certain circumstances when the employee reports activity of fellow employees in the workplace. …

R.C. 4113.52(B) carries the statute’s punch. That part of the statute sets forth what the employer may not retaliate against, and what actions bring about employer liability under the statute. R.C. 4113.52(B) does not require that the information the employee reports be completely accurate as long as “the employee made a reasonable and good faith effort to determine the accuracy of any information so reported.” R.C. 4113.52(B) does not exclude the “aware[ness] * * * of a violation” component of R.C. 4113.52(A)(3) from the protection of the “reasonable and good faith effort” requirement.

Thus, if an employee reports to his employer that a fellow employee is violating a state statute and that the violation is a criminal offense and is likely to cause a hazard to public health, each informational component of that report—the violation, the criminality, and the risk to public safety—is “information so reported” under R.C. 4113.52(B). The reporting employee is protected from retaliation as long as he made a “reasonable and good faith effort to determine the accuracy” of each informational element

In Fox, the employee that reported that Captain other employees had inappropriately disposed of tear gas canisters. The employee that complained had called a hazardous material disposal company and had been informed that a permit was needed to dispose of tear gas canisters. Also, two landfills would not accept the canisters without permits. Given the employment law above, the Ohio Supreme Court held that a jury could decide that the employee filed his report with a reasonable and good faith belief that there was a violation of the law or a safety hazard.

Ohio law provides job protections to those employees that report or oppose illegal or unsafe conduct or work conditions, such as OSHA violations, embezzlement, unlawful discrimination, or patient abuse, to name a few. However, in order to have the protections under the law, there are a lot of steps that each employee must take. That is why it is absolutely critical for any employee confronted with illegal or unsafe conduct or work conditions at work to immediately consult with employment law lawyers in order to make sure that everything is done right. If you wait until you are fired, you may have already lost your claim. Do not wait. If you have seen any illegal or dangerous conduct on your job, then the best thing you can do is call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The Spitz Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting Ohio employees from retaliation after blowing the whistle on unlawful and hazardous activities at work.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this whistle blower claims page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “what should I do if I am being harassed for reporting…”, “how do I …?”, “Am I …?”, “what should I do if…” or “can my boss fired me for …”, it would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to particular whistleblower claims questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, attorney Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.