What Protections Are Entailed To Whistleblowers?
Are you a whistleblower or thinking about reporting illegal activities or unsafe conditions? If you see something illegal happening at work or if your boss or manager asks you to do something that you know is against the law or creates a danger, you face a dilemma. Of course, you know the right thing for any employee to do is to report the illegality, but you may also fear that doing so may get you fired, demoted or transferred. Regrettably, this fear is often warranted as employees in all sectors of the workforce have found themselves demoted, fired or otherwise adversely treated because they spoke out against the illegal conduct by their company, manager, supervisor or boss. Fortunately, there are now more laws that protect individuals who report employer misconduct than ever before, and at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, we’re dedicated to upholding those laws for Ohio workers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act
The Occupational Safety and Health Act protects whistleblowers who report unsafe or dangerous working conditions. This typically affects employees who work in industrial or manufacturing fields and have witnessed their employer knowingly or purposefully skimping on safety measures. Employees who report the employer’s misconduct can then avail themselves of the protections offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act if the employer retaliates against them for having blown the whistle.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a collection of federal laws, is the latest addition to legislation that protects whistleblowers. Enacted in the wake of the WorldCom and Enron scandals, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act contains potent anti-whistleblower provisions that prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who engage in a protected activity. These protected activities include providing information to or participating in an investigation of conduct that the whistleblower reasonably believes to be illegal or to violate federal regulations. There is, however, an additional requirement that the investigation has to be conducted by a federal regulatory or law enforcement agency. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act also applies to protect any individual who testifies or participates in any legal or congressional proceeding related to an alleged violation of corporate fraud statutes or regulations.
The False Claims Act
This provision only applies to those employees who report employer misconduct in its business deals with the federal government. The history of the False Claims Act dates all the way back to the Civil War, when businesses that contracted with the Union Army were charging for services and materials that were never delivered. More recently, the False Claims Act was utilized in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts when private contractors were reported to participate in similar conduct. If an employee knows that their employer is defrauding the government and reports this conduct, they are protected by the False Claims Act. In such a case, the individual making the report is eligible to receive a portion of the damages if the government recovers damages in a lawsuit against the employer. The percentage of recovery varies depending on whether the government conducts its own investigation of the matter based on the information given by the whistleblower, but the recoverable damages can be quite substantial, in some cases reaching millions of dollars.
Although these three acts are the largest, most comprehensive, pieces of legislation aimed to protect whistleblowers, there is also Ohio law in place to protect you. Specifically, the Ohio Revised Code prohibits employers from taking disciplinary action against an employee who reports a violation of federal or Ohio law. This allows an injured employee to sue the employer under both Ohio and federal statutes, a fact which bolsters the whistleblower’s case.
Because there are many different laws that relate to whistleblowing claims, you should immediately call Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, if you find yourself saying or searching the internet for the following:
- I was fired two days after I reported a safety violation to OSHA.
- My boss suspended me after I kept reporting dangerous equipment.
- Whom should I report illegal activity at work?
- My manager fired me after I complained about mold in the kitchen.
- Can I get any money for reporting my company for defrauding the government?
- I exposed my supervisor for tax fraud and got fired.
- What should I do if my company is doing something illegal?
- How should I report that my job is making us work in unsafe conditions?
- I was fired after I refused to do something that was against the law and wrong.
- Can I be fired for reporting whistleblower or sexual harassment if I was not the target?
- I am a whistleblower and want to sue my company.
- How should I report my boss for doing unlawful things at work?
- My company retaliated against me after I reported the need for safety equipment.
It is important, however, to take legal action quickly in the instance that you have reported employer misconduct and suffered retaliation as a result. Some of the whistleblower laws have extremely short statutes of limitation, meaning that you might lose your right to bring a lawsuit in as little as 30 days. Therefore, if you or someone you know has blown the whistle or been wrongfully terminated, and may need legal counsel, do not hesitate to contact us at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm. The initial consultation is free, and we accept whistleblower cases on a contingent-fee basis. You pay no attorney fees unless your case settles or we win at trial. Call the right attorney today for a FREE and CONFIDENTIAL initial consultation.
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