How are Whistleblowers Protected Under the Law?

Whether a company is illegally dumping toxic substances into the waterways, or a hospital is billing Medicare for services that were never provided, wrongdoings by corporations and other entities can have far-reaching consequences. Oftentimes, the only way that violations are exposed is through people who work for the company that is committing the wrongful acts. This can be a complicated situation though, since the people who must come forward are typically employees of the wrongdoing companies. The decision to report an employer’s criminal actions can be frightening when a person believes that doing the right thing could cause them to lose their job.

Fortunately, there are several laws that protect whistleblowers from retaliation. In some cases, whistleblowers are not only protected, but can actually be rewarded for their brave decision to come forward. Determining which laws apply in which circumstances can be difficult though, so if you find yourself in the position of reporting your employer’s illegal conduct, speak with an employment law attorney to learn your rights and what sort of protections that law provides for you.

State laws

Most states have enacted some form of whistleblower protection. In Mississippi, the whistleblower protection law only applies to public employees. This law makes it illegal to retaliate against an employee if that employee provides information regarding an agency’s violation, or testifies to an investigative body about a violation. If an employee is terminated because of their role in an investigation, then that employee can file a civil lawsuit and be reinstated in their position, and get back pay that was lost.

Federal Statutes that contain whistleblower protection provisions

While Mississippi’s state law does nothing to protect whistleblowers employed by private corporations, there are federal laws that apply in many circumstances. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees twenty-two statutes that contain whistleblower protections provisions. This means that an employee who reports that their employer is violating one of these statutes will be protected from retaliation from their employer. The statutes overseen by OSHA include laws intended to protect the environment and nuclear safety, such as the Clean Air Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act, laws impact in the transportation industry, like the Federal Railroad Safety Act, and laws designed to protect consumers and investors, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Each of these laws includes a provision stating that employees who report that their employer was in violation of the statute are protected from termination or other retaliatory acts. There are various time limits in place in the statutes that determine how long an employee has to file a claim that their employer retaliated against them.

The Whistleblower Protection Act protects federal employees from retaliation if they report a violation of a statute, rule or regulation, a gross waste of funds, gross mismanagement, the abuse of authority, or a “substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.”

The False Claims Act contains a robust whistleblower protection provision. This law protects whistleblowers who report fraudulent acts that are committed against the federal government. This can include reporting the use of false claims to obtain payment from the government, fraudulent actions taken to avoid or reduce payments owed to the federal government.

Given the complexity of whistleblower protections laws, it is important to consult with an experienced employment law attorney in order to protect yourself and your rights.  Contact the seasoned Mississippi Whistleblower Protection Attorney at Barrett Law, PLLC today by calling (800) 707-9577 or visiting us online.

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