One of the main character traits that an employer looks for during recruitment is integrity. But what happens when you notice that your employer has double standards and is engaging in immoral and illegal activities? As an honest employee, you will likely feel obligated to report your boss to the relevant authorities.
Unfortunately, your boss may in turn retaliate by cutting your hours, creating a hostile work environment, or even firing you. If this situation sounds like yours, then work with a Washington law firm like HKM Employment Attorneys to file a claim for whistleblower retaliation or wrongful termination.
What is Whistleblower Retaliation?
Whistleblower retaliation is when your employer takes adverse actions against you because you reported him or her for violating the law. Common examples of retaliation include:
- Threatening remarks
- Denial of benefits
- Denial of overtime or promotion
- Disciplinary action
- Blacklisting to prevent you from getting another job
- Constructive discharge (the employer makes the working conditions intolerable for you, so you quit voluntarily)
- Reduced pay
Which Laws Protect Whistleblowers from Retaliation?
Both the federal and state levels have laws protecting employees against retaliation for whistleblowing. Some states have common law protection. The state of Washington also enacted the Washington Whistleblower Act to protect state employees reporting their employers for violating government policies.
The laws protecting you as the whistleblower are therefore categorized under:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) covers the employee whistleblower protection provisions under 22 statutes. Some of them include the Clean Air Act (CAA), Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and Energy Reorganization Act (ERA), among many more. These federal laws offer protection should you file a complaint about safety and health hazards caused by your employer in the workplace or community environment.
With enough proof that your boss is ignoring the federal government laws, you can sue your employer through a provision referred to as “qui tam” under the False Claims Act. You will be acting on behalf of the United States government; thus, it can decide to join the action.
However, there are specific rules for you to be eligible for protection against your whistleblowing claims. You must:
- Be sure of the claim that your employer is violating the law
- File the complaint with the OSHA within 30 days of your boss taking the retaliatory action
- Have filed a complaint with your employer or federal agency regarding the violation
In Washington, the Whistleblower Act Chapter 42.40 RCW offers an avenue through which employees can report suspected improper government action. Anyone in violation of the law can be fined a maximum civil penalty of $5,000.
For you to qualify for the program, the following guidelines must be met:
- You must be currently employed by the Washington state agency in question.
- The suspected violation should have happened within the last 12 months.
- The complaint must not involve personnel issues such as promotion, grievances, suspension, dismissals, discrimination, harassment, reprimands, and appointments.
Bellevue Municipal Code Chapter 3.80 also gives employees working for the Bellevue city government certain whistleblower protections. In this case, you must make a good-faith attempt to follow the proper procedures for filing a complaint, or else you will not be protected by the city whistleblower policies. This is why it’s best to reach out to an experienced whistleblower attorney based in Bellevue, who can walk you through the process of filing the complaint properly to protect your position.
Is Exposing a Whistleblower Illegal?
When filing a whistleblower complaint, you can file anonymously or choose to identify yourself, which would help the investigating agencies contact you if they need further information. However, even if you identify yourself within the complaint, your identity should remain confidential per state law.
If you are with the Intelligence Community (IC), the rule may differ. According to the IC Whistleblower Protection Act, you are permitted under federal laws to anonymously report a claim to the inspector general or other relevant authorities. However, your identity will only remain anonymous to the extent applicable because sometimes disclosure is unavoidable in the course of an investigation.
Contact a Whistleblower Attorney to Discuss Your Claim
HKM Employment Attorneys offers expert legal advice regarding any employment law issues and maintains a professional attorney-client relationship that prohibits leaking the identity of whistleblowers.
We pride ourselves on being recognized by the American Bar Association and National Employment Lawyers Association. Feel free to talk to us regarding any employment-related legal issues. Our whistleblower and retaliation lawyers in Bellevue are here to act as your advocate through each step of the legal process.