The term “whistleblower” is often heard on the news and can include a very large variety of factors in both the public and private realm. A general definition of a whistleblower is someone who speaks out against a perceived wrongdoing. Employees are often retaliated against by their employer when they report or bring to light unethical or illegal conduct. The government incentivizes individuals to expose wrongdoing through programs that give whistleblowers monetary rewards if their information leads to actions against the offenders.
Most whistleblowers are ordinary people who happen to come across knowledge of wrongdoing. In order for an individual to bring a whistleblower claim, a certain pattern of facts must be present. First, the wrongdoing that an individual is reporting must be deemed a “protected activity.” A protected activity is the act of reporting or refusing to engage in specified illegal activity. In order to qualify for whistleblower protection, the person’s actions must not only be qualified as protected activity, but adverse action must also be taken against them by the wrongdoer. An action is adverse if it is “material,” meaning that the action is such that it would dissuade a reasonable employee from engaging in the protected activity. Being fired, suspended or demoted all would qualify as an adverse action. If a wrongdoer retaliates against a whistleblower by having another employee take adverse action against the whistleblower, such a situation generally counts as an adverse action as well.
In order to prevail in a whistleblower claim, the whistleblower must also show a causal link between the protected activity and the adverse action taken against them. Different whistleblower statutes use different degrees of standards a person must meet in order to show causation. Newer federal laws are usually written to require an employee to show that their protected activity was a “contributing factor” to an adverse employment action they suffered. Recent case law shows that as long as the protected activity has some effect on the adverse action taken against the individual, the standard is met.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces a large amount of the whistleblower provisions throughout federal statutes through their OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program. When a person has been retaliated against, they must exhaust all administrative paths of dealing with the retaliation, which generally means filing a complaint with OSHA before heading to federal court. For actions that fall under the False Claims Act or Dodd-Frank Act, the whistleblower does not have to exhaust administrative remedies. If a whistleblower wins their claim either in federal court or through administrative means, the whistleblower will either be reinstated to their position, awarded monetary damages or both. These damages can include payment for attorney’s fees, pain and suffering, emotional distress and lost wages.
Philadelphia Whistleblower Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates Defend Individuals Facing Retaliation at the Workplace
If you, a loved one or someone you know has been negatively affected or retaliated against in the workplace because they reported a wrongdoing, contact our team of seasoned Philadelphia whistleblower lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates. No one should have to face retaliation for doing what is right and just. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.