Employees are often hesitant or even scared to speak up and report violations of the law by their employers. This is because of the fear of retaliation from their employer.
However, reporting an unlawful action or element in the workplace entitles you to protection as a whistleblower.
What is a whistleblower?
Whistleblowers are anyone who reports cases of illegal pollution, criminal activity, employment discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace. Those who report these things or who cooperate with government investigations are protected from employer retaliation.
Federal protection laws for whistleblowers
On a federal level, there are several whistleblower protections, including those by OSHA, the Pollution Prevention Act, the Toxic Substance Control Act and the Clean Air Act – but the primary protection crome from the Whistleblower Protection Act. If you report an unlawful action by your employer, you are protected from retaliation.
The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) protects you and all employees from discrimination and provides protection for those who report these situations. Additionally, the EEOC protects workers who participate or cooperate in an investigation of harassment or discrimination from cases of retaliation.
You can file a civil lawsuit if you face retaliation or if you are demoted, fired or face other adverse employment action because of these protected activities. In some cases, you can be rehired and receive back pay.
Protecting your rights as a whistleblower
Both federal and state laws protect whistleblowers. It’s important to know your rights to ensure you file a civil lawsuit against your employer if you face any type of retaliation. You cannot be punished for reporting illegal or unlawful activities in the workplace.