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Whistleblower Protection

An employee that reports on wrongdoing at their place of employment to a superior is a legally-protected whistleblower. If their employer fires them as a response, then that act is retaliation which is not permitted by law. There are different statutes of limitations for whistleblower claims depending on the law the employer violated. If you think you may have a whistleblower retaliation claim, speak with an employment attorney quickly to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines.

Whistleblower Protection

Often, the question is asked, “what is a whistleblower?” Put simply, a whistleblower is a person who reports to an authority within the organization or a governing agency about on-going or past waste, fraud, abuse, corruption, breach of national security, and dangers to public welfare. Usually, the whistleblower is within the organization, but they can also be informants outside the entity. The whistleblower often conveys information about wrongdoing that would otherwise not be disclosed.

General Information

In the U.S., dozens of laws have been enacted at the Federal, state, and local levels to protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Some of the laws span across different subject matter areas, which include the protections within the False Claims Act, Clean Air Act, Sarbanes Oxley Act, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Antarctic Conservation Act, Affordable Care Act, as well as the Whistleblower Act that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces. The varying laws have different time periods to file a claim, from 30 days to 180 days.

What is Retaliation?

OSHA defines retaliation as “when an employer (through a manager, supervisor, or administrator) fires an employee or takes any other type of adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity.” Retaliation harms individual employees and can harm the morale of the organization.

 

What is an adverse action? An adverse action is an act performed by a person that would dissuade a reasonable employee from raising concerns about a possible unlawful violation or other activity. The adverse action can be overt, such as a demotion, intimidation, harassment, or firing; or more subtle, such as isolating, ostracizing, mocking, or falsely accusing the employee of poor performance.

 

Who is covered by whistleblower protections? Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees, and these protections include both full-time, part-time, and temporary workers.

Arizona’s Whistleblower Protections

The state of Arizona has its own whistleblower protections in addition to those covered by Federal law. Called the Arizona Employment Protection Act (“AEPA”), found at A.R.S. § 23-1501, the law is an exception to the “at-will employee” rule because it stops an employer from firing an employee for retaliation stemming from reporting on illicit behavior that violated or will violate the Constitution of Arizona or laws of Arizona. The state is an “at-will” employment state, so employers can terminate an employee at any time for any reason (or none at all) unless specifically prohibited by statute, contract, or constitutional provision. The AEPA only covers employee discharges, not other forms of retaliation. While not as broad as Federal protections, Arizona’s whistleblower protection law protects employees from such retaliation as well as any threats to their families. The state has a strong public interest in protecting its people from unsafe and illegal actions done by employers.

If you recently reported on illegal, unsafe, or unethical behavior by your employer and they retaliated against you, your whistleblower rights may have been violated. Contact an attorney who can evaluate your case.

 

We offer one-on-one consultations with an experienced Arizona employment lawyer and specialized knowledge of federal, state and local laws. To schedule a consultation with an employment discrimination lawyer, contact our office today.

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