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Know your rights as a whistleblower

On Behalf of | Jan 28, 2020 | Whistleblowing |

If you report your employer for fraud, misconduct or other wrongful actions, federal law protects you as a whistleblower. Your employer may not retaliate against you for blowing the whistle.

It is critical to understand your rights in this situation and explore your next steps after filing a whistleblower claim against your employer.

Types of retaliation

Retaliation can take many forms. Some retaliatory actions may be subtle and difficult to prove, while others are blatantly obvious. Retaliatory measures can include:

  • Being subjected to disciplinary action
  • Getting demoted, fired or laid off
  • Being denied benefits such as a promotion, raise or overtime
  • Being threatened, harassed or intimidated
  • Receiving reduced hours or pay
  • Becoming blacklisted from your industry
  • Receiving a poor performance report

Filing a complaint

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) manages the federal whistleblower protection plan. If you have experienced retaliatory actions, it may be in your best interest to file a federal complaint with OSHA. The statute of limitations for making this type of claim ranges from 30 to 180 days, depending on the specific whistleblower statute that applies to your case.

You can file a complaint online, in person at your nearest OSHA regional office or by phone, fax or postal mail. Illinois workers can also make a state claim, while Wisconsin follows the federal claim system.

Proving your claim

When you file a complaint, it can be constructive to include evidence to back up your allegations. Documents or other supporting information can include:

  • Text messages, emails, memos and other communications related to your complaint
  • Copies of hiring or firing letters
  • Copies of disciplinary actions
  • Your job description
  • The employee handbook for the company
  • Contact information for witnesses
  • Copies of documents from other proceedings related to your complaint
  • Pay stubs

After OSHA conducts an investigation, the agency will make a determination in your case. Your employer may have to restore your wages, job position or otherwise compensate for retaliatory actions. More information on this process is available from the OSHA Whistleblower Investigations Manual.

Whistleblowing is a complex area of the law. As whistleblower claims and retaliatory actions often involve high stakes, working with an experienced attorney can help to protect your rights and interests from the start.