In business, the term whistleblower refers to any individual who reports illegal, unsafe, or unethical practices committed by a company. The term dates to the 1970s and is attributed to Ralph Nader, a prominent business activist who coined the term in an effort to replace words like informer and snitch, which have negative connotations that could discourage individuals from reporting the illegal acts they’ve observed. It is derived from the whistle that a referee uses to signify a foul play in a sporting event.
Various laws exist to protect whistleblowers from retaliation from the companies they expose. In Washington, RCW 42.40 protects whistleblowers in state government positions from retaliation. RCW 49.60 also includes language about retaliation and penalties for companies who retaliate against individuals who participate in protected activities against them.
In addition to these laws, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, has a Whistleblower Protection Program. This program enforces whistleblower protection statutes across the country and supports workers who have suffered from retaliation from their employers after reporting unsafe, illegal, or unethical actions.
The False Claims Act and Qui Tam Actions
All whistleblower claims must be true. The False Claims Act is a federal law that holds individuals responsible for any fraudulent claims they make against their employer. It also allows individuals to file Qui tam actions, which are allegations of fraud against a federal agency or contractor. In Qui tam actions, the allegation is made on behalf of the federal government, who may get involved with the case.
Under the False Claims Act, any employee who experiences retaliation after filing a complaint against a federal employer may be entitled to the following compensation:
- Reinstatement if he or she was terminated;
- Back pay at double his or her rate; and
- Monetary compensation for his or her litigation costs and attorney’s fees.
Retaliation in Your Workplace
There are various actions an employer might take to retaliate against an employee who has filed a whistleblower claim. The individual might be fired, demoted, harassed, overlooked for a promotion, or subject to high levels of surveillance by his or her colleagues and supervisor. He or she might also be given a poor performance review or a bad reference when he or she applies for work with a new company, despite his or her strong performance. All of these actions are illegal and you might be able to take action against the company. If you have been a victim of retaliation from your employer, contact one of the attorneys at our firm for expert legal help.
Retaliation Attorneys Can Help
If you’ve suffered from any type of retaliatory behavior from your employer following an accusation of illegal or immoral acts, call HKM Employment Attorneys LLP at 206-838-2504 to discuss your case and start working toward a productive solution. We’re here to help you rectify any injustices that have occurred in your workplace. Ethically-minded employees are the key to combating workplace corruption and creating a fair work environment for all.