Whistleblowing: Reporting Employer Wrongdoing

Deciding to report a wrongdoing committed by your employer can be intimidating. Many employees fear what will happen to them if they speak out, exposing the wrongful or illegal actions that are being taken by their coworkers, supervisors, and other personnel. Of course, if employees fear retaliation from their employers, they will be less likely to take the steps necessary to end the wrongful acts, or to report the employer to the entities that can hold the violating persons accountable.

In order to prevent a culture of silence, most states have some form of whistleblower protection law. These laws make it illegal for employers to take negative actions against an employee for reporting some violation of law or ethics that was committed by the employer.

Who is covered by Mississippi’s whistleblower laws?

Mississippi has a statute that prevents public employees from being retaliated against when they file a complaint with the state or participate in a public investigation of their employer. The law also provides protection for employees if they report or testify in a proceeding related to the Mississippi Vulnerable Adults Act (MVAA).

What if I am not a public employee?

Mississippi’s statute is limited in scope to public employees and violations of the MVAA. However, an employee of a private company might be protected in other ways. Under the common law of Mississippi, it is unlawful to discharge an employee for reasons that violate public policy. As a result, it is illegal to terminate employees for retaliatory reasons if the employee refused to take part in illegal activities on behalf of the employer, or if the employee reported the criminal acts of the employer.

There are also federal laws that provide protection in some situations. For example, under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, it is illegal to retaliate against a whistleblower in cases involving securities or shareholder fraud. Employees of private companies are also shielded from retaliation for exposing their companies for defrauding the government.

When should I report my employer?

If you believe you have witnessed your employer engaging in illegal activities, or violating a company policy, you should first try to understand whether you might have misunderstood what you heard or witnessed. For instance, if your boss told you to do something that you know would be a violation, be sure that you correctly understood what you were told to do. If you believe that the orders were very clear, and definitely would constitute a violation, you may still want to question your boss or politely point out the violation that you would be committing. In some scenarios, it is possible that your boss simply did not realize that the act that they instructed you to take was not permitted.

If you are sure that you were intentionally told to do something unethical or illegal and do not believe there would be any point in discussing the situation with your boss, consider speaking with someone above your boss, or someone whose role at the company involves ethics regulations. This will likely not be appreciated by your boss, so it is good to be fairly sure that you have ruled out a misunderstanding before this point.

Reporting an employer’s legal violation can be intimidating and unnerving. If you find yourself in this position, it is a good idea to speak to an experienced employment law attorney in order to understand your rights and learn what sorts of legal protections would apply in your case.  For further information, contact the seasoned Mississippi Whistleblower Protection Attorney today at Barrett Law, PLLC.



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