The term “whistleblower” usually refers to an employee who reports an employer’s wrongdoing to a government agency or law enforcement organization. In some cases, employers may attempt to take retaliatory action by discharging, suspending, or demoting a whistleblower. However, there are a variety of state and federal laws which protect whistleblowing employees from employer retaliation.
At the state level, Massachusetts G.L. c. 149 § 185 protects public employees who engage in whistleblowing activity. Section 185 states that a public employer may not retaliate against an employee who discloses (or threatens to disclose) practices which the employee reasonably believes are in violation of certain laws, rules, or regulations. Employees who are subject to wrongful retaliation may be awarded reinstatement of employment, benefits, attorneys’ fees, and up to three times the amount of wages that were lost due to the retaliation.
At the federal level, there are numerous laws and statutes which provide protection for whistleblowing employees. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act allow certain employees to file complaints with OSHA if they experience retaliatory action for reporting workplace safety hazards to government agencies. The Federal Rail Safety Act allows certain railroad employees and contractors to file complaints if they experience retaliation for reporting violations of rail safety regulations. In certain cases, employees who have experienced improper retaliation may be eligible to receive back wages, reinstatement of employment, and reimbursement for attorney fees and costs.
If you are unsure whether to report an employer’s wrongful activities, you may want to hire an attorney to guide you through this complicated area of law. If your employer has retaliated against you for reporting unlawful behavior, you may wish to speak to an attorney to determine whether you are entitled to protection under these or any other laws. For questions about whistleblower protection laws, contact Attorney Michael Doherty or Edward Cannon at Doherty, Ciechanowski, Dugan & Cannon, P. C.