How is a whistleblower protected by law?
Whistleblowing is when an employee exposes some sort of wrongdoing that they’ve witnessed at their place of employment. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 protects employees from retaliation they face for being whistleblowers, such as suspension or termination of employment or getting blacklisted in an industry. This is a highly-valued law that has been the focus of movies, TV shows, and other media, and whistleblowers have led to much-needed changes in legislation on a variety of issues. While it feels great to stand up for what you know is right, it can also be frightening and you may feel torn between doing what’s right and keeping your job. Knowing how to protect yourself is key.
What The Law Says
There are two criteria one has to meet in order to qualify for protection under the law – the employee or official must be reporting for the sake of the public’s interest and safety, and they must reasonably believe that one or many of the following happened in the past, present, or are likely to occur in the future:
- Criminal offenses: These run the gamut from financial and accounting wrongdoings, such as fraud, to intentionally breaking laws.
- Endangering lives or property: Code violations, unsafe work conditions that have been reported, and a lack of protective equipment are all things that need to be reported. This also includes reporting potential environmental threats.
If the disclosure met these criteria and the whistleblower still faced retaliation, then the employee or official’s rights have been violated and the victim is entitled to seek damages for what they suffered as a consequence of reporting.
The next thing to do is to check your employee handbook to see if they have a policy on whistleblowers. Some companies have a procedure to handle these cases that may include who to report to as well as plans to follow up on claims and how they are to be resolved. Most government agencies do have a policy written that employees can use as a guide.
It is important to keep in mind that whistleblower laws are complex on both the federal and state level. Texas has a few of their own laws that affect how these cases are handled. One of them is the Texas Whistleblower Act in 1983, which was created to protect Texans while encouraging them to report wrongdoings against themselves and taxpayers. While the law specifically focuses on public employees, the code does allow for some exceptions in the private sector, such as protecting workers in the healthcare industry.
What Is Not Protected
Grievances are not the same as issues that require public disclosure. It is important to check the employee handbook to ensure that you meet the criteria for whistleblowing rather than a personal complaint.
Hiring a lawyer is also important to protect yourself and to recoup lost wages, benefits, and back pay that a whistleblower suffered from as a result of disclosing a truth. The laws are complex, and the government agencies will be looking out for themselves. If you’re looking for a courageous employment lawyer in Dallas then look no further than Thorpe and Hatcher, LLC. They have years of experience and understand how the laws can affect you and your case.