Recently, this blog post shared the story of a man that was fired after engaging in whistleblowing activities. In that case, the man complained that he and other employees of the Veterans Administration had faced retaliation as a result of whistleblowing activities -- including complaining about backlogs within the department.
Under Louisiana state law and U.S. federal law, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees that act as whistleblowers. This means that employers cannot fire, demote or otherwise punish employees who engage in whistleblowing. But, who is exactly is considered a whistleblower?
A whistleblower is any employee that reports misconduct within a company. The types of misconduct are broad and can include overtly illegal activity, financial fraud or mismanagement, safety code violations, shareholder fraud, sexual harassment, Family and Medical Leave Act violations or other similar mistreatment. Whistleblowers can report to a federal or state agency or to a superior within their company. In either case, the employee is considered a whistleblower and will qualify for protections.
Additionally, when reports are made to superior employee within a company that person could also be considered a whistleblower. If that person either investigates the complaint or later follows up with the complaint, then that person is also a whistleblower. Therefore, those individuals who start or continue an investigation after a complaint from a subordinate will also qualify for whistleblower protection.
It is important for employers to thoroughly investigate employee complaints. Having a formal complaint system in place that reassures employees that they will not be retaliated against. Failing to abide by whistleblower protection laws could in some circumstances lead to fines, a lawsuit, possible prison time and a damaged reputation.
Louisiana employees who have engaged in whistleblowing should understand their legal rights. Whistleblowers who feel they have suffered from illegal retaliation may want to seek help from a legal professional to determine if they qualify for protections under state or federal laws.
Source: FindLaw, "Whistleblower Retaliation Could Land You in Trouble," accessed Aug. 10, 2014