If you witness malpractice, illegal actions, or dangerous conditions on the job, you may feel it is your duty to make a report to the proper authorities. But what happens when doing the right thing leads to your employer demoting you, giving you worse work shifts, or even firing you on the spot?
A whistleblower retaliation lawyer can help ensure that justice is served. As a whistleblower, you have certain rights and protections that should be respected. Should your employer repay your professional sacrifice with demotion, harassment, discrimination, or termination, the Boston team at HKM Employment Attorneys can help ensure you get the compensation and treatment you deserve.
What is Whistleblower Retaliation?
Whistleblower retaliation occurs when an employer decides to take specific actions against you for reporting illegal or dangerous workplace practices. There are federal and state whistleblower protection laws that make retaliating against employees who make a fair report illegal.
Whistleblower retaliation can take any form and may include:
- Denial of benefits
- Reduced pay
- Threatening remarks
- Demotion or dismissal
- Blacklisting (i.e., making it difficult to find another job)
- Negative performance reviews
- Constructive discharge – where an employer makes your work life and working conditions hostile and unbearable, forcing you to quit voluntarily.
What Are the Whistleblower Laws?
Both Massachusetts and federal laws protect whistleblowers from retaliation in Boston.
These laws come in the form of:
- Federal statutes: United States Department of Labor: Whistleblower Laws enforced by OSHA.
- State laws: Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 149, Section 185: State laws protecting whistleblowers.
- Massachusetts False Claims Act: Allows employees to make protected disclosures when an employer or contractor defrauds a government entity.
Laws Protecting Whistleblowers from Retaliation
Legal protection for whistleblowers at the federal level has grown over the years.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces 22 statutes that contain whistleblower anti-retaliation provisions. Some of these statutes include the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), Clean Air Act (CAA), Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), and the Taxpayer First Act (TFA).
Each of these laws requires that complaints be filed within a specified period after the alleged retaliation. Such complaints may be reported in writing or orally, and OSHA will accept the complaints in any language.
To qualify for protection against the whistleblowing claims using any of the 22 statutes, you must satisfy the following conditions:
- Be sure that the employer has violated the law.
- File the retaliation complaint within 30 days from the day the employer took the alleged action(s).
- Have filed a complaint with your employer or federal agency regarding the alleged misconduct.
Like most states, Massachusetts has a law that protects whistleblowers from workplace retaliation.
Both public and private employees are protected against retaliation under Massachusetts General Laws. Common law protections apply for:
- Fulfilling a legal duty (e.g., serving on a jury)
- Refusing to commit illegal acts under the order of a supervisor (e.g., committing perjury)
- Helping in a criminal investigation (e.g., testifying against the employer)
- Asserting your legal rights as an employee (e.g., filing a workers’ compensation suit)
In addition, employees are protected from retaliation if they report their employer was attempting to defraud the government. For a successful claim, an employee may be compensated up to 30% of the total amount recovered by the government.
Is it Illegal to Expose a Whistleblower?
As an employee, you can either file your complaint anonymously or choose to identify yourself. The latter would help those investigating the matter to contact you and retrieve more information to help with the claim.
Under the False Claims Act, all qui tam lawsuits are kept under seal, meaning the case details cannot be viewed by your employer or the members of the public. However, once the seal is off, the case becomes a public matter, and anyone can identify the whistleblower.
For persons within the Intelligence Community (IC), the rules may differ. The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act allows whistleblowers to remain anonymous. However, if needed for the investigation, their identity may be revealed.
Consult with a Whistleblower Lawyer in Boston Today
If you’re a whistleblower in Boston and you’re suffering through retaliation from your boss, then reach out to HKM Employment Attorneys today. We have the experience needed to help you seek the justice and compensation you deserve for your efforts to make your job site a better place.