In the United States workers cannot be legally fired for reporting unsafe conditions, illegal activities, or other unlawful practices by an employer. Being fired in retaliation for calling attention to an employer’s unsafe or illegal practices is illegal. If you were wrongfully terminated for whistleblowing you may be able to file a wrongful termination claim.
What is Whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is one of the most common types of wrongful termination that workers experience. Your employer can’t fire you because you report unsafe conditions or illegal activities at your workplace.
Some examples of whistleblowing include:
- A hospital worker reporting that a doctor is taking kickbacks from a drug company to prescribe a certain medication.
- A restaurant worker calls the Department of Health because the restaurant isn’t obeying laws requiring refrigerated items to be kept at a certain temperature.
- A retail worker is being forced to work off the clock during the holiday rush and calls the Department of Labor.
If you report your employer for breaking OSHA standards, employment law, or for any illegal activity you cannot be fired solely for reporting that conduct.
The False Claims Act was the first whistleblower protection law. It was signed in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. The False Claims Act allows any individual or non-governmental organization to file a lawsuit, in U.S. District Courts, on behalf of the United States government. Whistleblowers can be rewarded for confidentially disclosing fraud that results in a financial loss to the federal government.
If the whistleblower’s documentation of the actions by their employer results in a successful prosecution, whistleblowers are awarded a mandatory reward of between 15% to 30% of the collected proceeds. These rewards are often substantial, since under the False Claims Act, the criminal is liable for a civil penalty as well as triple damages.
Other laws that protect whistleblowers include the Whistleblower Protection Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
What Do I Do If I Was Fired For Whistleblowing?
If you were fired for whistleblowing you must gather as much evidence as you can that your employer was performing criminal activities and knew those activities violated the law. Photos, emails, memos, videos, phone call recordings, text messages, and other evidence is crucial to prove that your employer knew the actions were illegal.
You will also need to provide proof that you were the one who reported the activity either by phone, email, or text.
Then you will need to file a whistleblower claim with OSHA. The time you have to file is limited so you will need to file as soon as you have gathered whatever evidence you can get. You can also file a claim with the EEOC for discrimination if you were fired in retaliation for reporting your employer’s illegal activity.
Speak With an Employment Law Attorney
If you need advice or have questions about whistleblower protections or filing a retaliation complaint because you were fired for whistleblowing, fill out a Free Case Evaluation to get connected with an employment attorney who may be able to help.