A whistleblower is anyone who makes illegal or fraudulent acts publicly known. It can also include reporting misconduct to the appropriate authorities. The dishonest acts can be committed by a private or public company, as well as an organization or government agency. Claims can encompass:
- Civil rights violations
- OSHA violations
- Violations of various safety acts
- Hazardous materials act violations
- Clean Air Act violations
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In Oregon, as in many states, an employee whose employment terms are not governed by contract is often subject to the “at-will” doctrine of employment law. The at-will doctrine states that either an employer or an employee can sever the employment relationship at any time, for (almost) any reason. However, the common law in Oregon recognizes a public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine that forbids the retaliatory firing of whistleblowers. Just as employers are not allowed to fire or demote an individual on account of his or her race or gender – or for complaining about discrimination based on such factors – employers are not allowed to make termination decisions on the basis of whistleblower status.
In addition to this common law protection, federal and state laws also actively protect whistleblowers from employer retaliation such as being fired, demoted or other types of punitive actions. Employees are also protected against unlawful harassment, discrimination, filing a workers’ compensation claim and making complaints regarding overtime and wages.
While public employees have long been protected by whistleblower statutes, Oregon expanded its state statutes, enshrined in ORS 659A.199 and ORS 659A.230, The California Whistleblower Protection Act, to provide protection to employees who report waste, fraud, abuse of authority, violation of laws or threats to public health. It includes not only the public reporting of illegal acts, but internal reporting as well as refusing to participate in an illegal activity. Oregon’s laws also protect employees who have not actually reported such activity, but whose employers have retaliated against them on the belief that they, the employee, have gained knowledge of something illegal and have reported it. Under the statute, employers are prohibited from engaging in any form of reprisal, retaliation, coercion, reduction of pay or hours, blacklisting, denial of benefits, discipline, layoff, denying promotion or threats.
To state a claim under one of Oregon’s whistleblower statutes, a plaintiff must show the following: (1) he or she was engaging in a protected activity, such as a good faith criminal report against his or her employer; (2) he or she suffered an adverse employment decision, such as firing, harassment, or a major demotion; and (3) there was a causal link between the two.
If you are being retaliated against for whistleblowing, our legal team will take whatever legal actions are necessary to ensure your rights are safeguarded. We can be relied on for trusted legal counsel and aggressive representation. Attorneys at our office have worked for many prestigious law firms and are highly rated by their peers for their professional skills and abilities.
Filing a Qui Tam Lawsuit in Oregon
Qui tam is an abbreviation of a Latin phrase which translates into “he who sues on behalf of the king and for himself”. Qui tam laws allow individuals to file suit against other individuals or corporations who have defrauded the United States government. Typical qui tam cases involve knowingly making a false claim to the federal government for some type of payment. Examples of fraud against the federal government include:
- Medicare overbilling
- Medicare fraud
- Clinical lab fraud
- Ambulance billing fraud
- Home Health Care fraud
- Federal grant fraud
- Education grant fraud
- Government program fraud
- Military contract fraud
- Construction fraud
- Government supplier fraud
- Contractor services fraud
- Work contract fraud
- Falsely stating work was performed
- False product inspections
- Government procurement fraud
- Fraudulent documentation
- Filing fraudulent paperwork
- Billing fraud
- Misstating amounts owed to the government
- Misrepresentation resulting in misappropriation of taxpayer money
Employment Lawyer in Portland, Oregon
If you lost your job because you disclosed your employer’s unethical business practices, contact a Portland employment law attorney from HKM. We are an established and highly respected legal firm that concentrates on employment matters, including whistleblower claims. Lawyers from our office can give you pertinent advice regarding your employment situation and the legal steps you can take to protect your rights. Our firm also represents employers involved in claims for wrongful discharge or retaliation in violation of public policy.
Contact a Portland whistleblower attorney for seasoned legal counsel and representation if you are being harassed or unfairly treated by your employer for whistleblowing in Oregon.