If you've recently become aware of an illegal or unethical practice at your place of work, you might be wondering about your potential options. Making the right choice can be difficult, particularly if you like your job -- you don't want to risk being fired or demoted after you've gone up the chain to report this misconduct. Fortunately, there are laws in place to help protect you from potential retaliation. Here is more about whistleblower protection laws and how you can determine whether to report an employer's bad deeds.
What protections exist for whistleblowers?
If you're a federal employee, you need not worry about the consequences of reporting misconduct. The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) protects federal employees against retaliation for reporting civil or criminal violations, waste or mismanagement of funds, or other conduct that can negatively affect the health or safety of the public. If you report this type of violation to the appropriate governing body and are later terminated or demoted, you may be able to not only recover your original position (or an equivalent job elsewhere), but lost wages and other financial damages resulting from your unlawful termination.
Most states have their own laws to protect employees (particularly state employees) who report actionable misconduct on their employer's part. However, the statute of limitations -- or the time you have to file this claim -- is generally fairly short. In many states, you'll need to file a civil whistleblower protection lawsuit against your employer or former employer within just a few months of the adverse employment action. If you're planning to report an employer's misconduct, you may want to make yourself familiar with your own state's laws so that you know precisely how long you have to file.
How can you decide whether to report your employer's misconduct?
If you work for a private employer rather than a city, county, state, or federal government, you may not have the same whistleblower protections enjoyed by public employees. However, you could still have the basis for a wrongful termination suit. You'll want to consult with an attorney to determine your legal options.
Regardless of whether you're protected under the federal (or your state's) whistleblower law, it's important to report misconduct you observe. Many individuals have been blacklisted in their relative professions or even spent time in jail due to their efforts to cover up (or failure to report) a violation of law. In the long run, reporting financial, civil, or criminal misconduct will help your employment prospects while ensuring those who violated the law suffer the appropriate consequences of their decisions. For assistance, talk to a professional like Whistleblower Justice Network, Inc.