What Protections Are Entailed To Whistleblowers?
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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Frequently Asked Questions About Whistleblower Claims
When you report wrongdoing in your company, you shouldn’t fear retaliation or job loss. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Here are a few of the most common questions Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm sees about whistleblower claims:
What Should I Do If I Think I Will Be Fired For Reporting Illegal Activities Or Unsafe Working Conditions?
Whistleblower Claims Attorney: It is important to report any illegal activities or unsafe working conditions in writing. The failure to do so may result in you not having a viable claim. Furthermore, some employers will lie about whether you reported the unlawful conduct or dangerous conditions in writing, or dispute that you reported it at all. To that end, it is important for you to keep evidence of this report. For example, if you send something by email, keep a copy of the email in electronic and printed form. If you faxed a complaint or report to your boss or HR, keep both the fax and the fax confirmation sheet. Even keeping a text message on your phone will be proof that you complained in writing. If none of these options are available, you can handwrite the complaint or fill out the form – but you should use your phone to take a picture and/or video of both the form and you leaving it in a mailbox or sliding it under your manager’s or supervisor’s door.
Should I Sign Any Papers When My Boss Fires Me?
Whistleblower Claims Attorney: Do not sign any documents right after being fired. You have already been fired and signing any papers cannot help you. Most likely, any papers that your boss or manager give you after being fired is to help your employer. Once you have been fired, your employer cannot force you to do anything. Tell them you will be having an attorney review any documents that they want you to sign before you sign anything.
If I Was Fired Today After Reporting Unlawful Conduct Or Dangerous Conditions, What Should I Do?
Whistleblower Claims Attorney: Being fired is a nerve-racking and scary moment. It may be hard to keep your head right after being wrongfully terminated. If you can, these are some of the things that you should keep in mind. You should keep your anger in check and avoid engaging in negative actions against the employer, such as breaking property on the way out; deleting documents or information from your computer; or badmouthing your former employer to clients or customers. This includes not going on social media to blast your former employer.
You should take with you all paperwork that is properly in that your possession, including the company’s employee handbook, emails or memos sent to or by the employee, previous human resource (HR) complaints in which the employee filed, participated, or was the subject of, performance reviews, schedules, time card, payroll records, documents showing changes to salary and job title, and any other documents that demonstrate that employee’s work habits and job performance. If you are a contract employee, keep a copy of the contract.
Can My Employer Sue Me For Breaching A Confidentiality Agreement When I Reported Illegal Conduct?
Whistleblower Claims Attorney: The law does not allow people to enter contracts for an illegal purpose. Moreover, the SEC recently made clear that it will go after companies that force confidentiality agreements upon employees in an attempt to muzzle whistleblower complaints. Nonetheless, in an abundance of caution, you should call our attorneys to go over your agreement and advise you on how to proceed with reporting illegal conduct and/or dangerous work conditions.
Can My Employer Fire Me If I Honestly Thought There Was Something Illegal Going On, But There Really Was Not?
Whistleblower Claims Attorney: The law favors reporting of any honest belief that there may be something illegal or dangerous going on at your place of employment. For the most part, courts have held that an employee need not show that an actual violation occurred. Instead, these courts have held that it is sufficient that the employee had a reasonable belief that a violation occurred. If the employee had a reasonable belief – i.e. was just not making it up to save his or her job – then the employer cannot fire or otherwise retaliate against that employee.