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Protections against the firing of whistleblowers

Getting fired from a job is almost always a traumatic experience for the person who has just been let go unexpectedly. Getting fired for an illegitimate reason can be even worse. Sometimes, a person who exposes wrongdoing or illegal activity in their workplace may be let go by an unscrupulous employer. Knowing the employment law options can help such workers assert their rights in the face of an employer's illegal action.

First, what exactly is a "whistleblower"? In general, a "whistleblower" is defined as someone who has taken some sort of step to expose illegal workplace activity. The illegal activity might be directed against the whistleblower, such as in a workplace discrimination case. Or, the illegal activity might not be directed at anyone in particular, but may still be a major problem, such as unsafe work practices that violate the law and threaten the safety of employees.

Some employers seek to retaliate against the whistleblower, often by firing said person. Fortunately, there are multiple state and federal laws that protect whistleblowers from getting fired for simply reporting violations of the law. For example, well-known federal laws, such as the Clean Air Act, involve key protections for whistleblowers who report hazards to health or safety. There are also state laws that protect both public and private employees from getting fired for being a whistleblower.

However, in order to receive the full protection of such laws fired whistleblowers generally need to take certain steps, such as filing a timely claim and documenting the illegal activity in their workplace. Getting the right information about wrongful termination actions can help those who believe they acted as a whistleblower and were unfairly retaliated-against or fired as a result.

Source: FindLaw, "What to do if you've been fired for whistleblowing," accessed Jan. 23, 2017

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