Learning that your employer may have engaged in unlawful activities is distressing. While you may feel the morally right thing to do is to report such misconduct to the appropriate agency, you may fear you might lose your job if your employer found out you “tattled.” What you should know, however, is that you are protected under federal law in such situations as a whistleblower.
Whistleblowers and retaliation
A whistleblower is a worker who reports employer misconduct to the appropriate agency or authorities. An employer is not allowed to take an adverse employment action against workers who blow the whistle on misconduct. Some examples of adverse employment actions include demotions, firing and harassment made in retaliation for being a whistleblower.
An example of retaliation
Let’s look at the example of a worker who reports misconduct regarding overtime pay. If an employer purposely failed to pay overtime to workers in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, workers can report this misconduct to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division. If the employer retaliates against the worker, the worker can exercise their rights as a whistleblower.
Most employers want to follow state and federal employment laws. Still, mishaps occur and sometimes a worker is put in a position where they want to report employer misconduct. The law protects whistleblowers against adverse employment actions, to encourage employers and workers to do the right thing.