There are situations that many people find themselves involved in when they expose wrongdoing by people, businesses, and governments. The threat of retaliation is real enough to deter many people from doing the right thing and becoming whistleblowers. What is a person to do when they decide to do the right thing? Contact an attorney immediately and read and learn the Whistleblower Protection Act.
When a person decides that they need to “blow the whistle”, there is almost no way to avoid some form of fallout. Thankfully though, there are options for publicizing information that offer less personal risk. By making smart decisions about how to proceed, a whistleblower may be able to keep their identity entirely confidential. What this comes down to is the nature of the problem and how the person blowing the whistle proceeds.
Have you been terminated from your job because you pointed out an illegal activity that has been transpiring within the company that you worked for? Are you in fear of losing your job because the practices of the company that you work within are clearly against the law and you know that you can do something to stop this?
Even though most employment is termed “at-will,” which means an employee may be fired at any time and for any reason or for no reason at all (as long as this reason is not an illegal one), there are some important exceptions to the at-will rule — and legal remedies for it. There are exceptions that may help you keep your job or sue your former employer for wrongful termination.
Retaliation is a reason that you may not be able to be terminated under the at-will rule.
Employers are strictly forbidden from retaliating against employees who have engaged in certain legally protected activities such as Whistleblowing. In order to be protected under retaliation you must prove that:
- You were engaged in a protected activity under the law — such as filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, formally complaining to your employer about harassment or discrimination or are protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
If you find yourself in the situation that has you coming across illegal information in the work place, you will need to do all that is in your power to protect yourself.
Verify and Document. Verify that it is not a rumor. For unclassified information, you may decide to keep a documented copy of the evidence for yourself and also give a copy to a friend in a sealed envelope. An extra copy can be helpful in the event that the original is lost. By providing a friend with a copy, they can, if needed testify that you gave them the sealed envelope on a specific date. You may need this to help prove the validity of your case.
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Consult an Attorney. Bringing a charge against a person, company or the company is not something that should be taken lightly. You will need a qualified attorney to help protect you. Most attorneys will take on valid cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that if they don’t win, they don’t get paid.
To Proceed or Not to Proceed. There may be options if you don’t want to go public. In making a report to the police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, or to the Securities and Exchanges Commission, many times, you can insist that you want your identity to be kept confidential.
A qualified attorney will also be able to inform you if your concern is something that has already been reported.
Be Prepared. If you find that your identity is exposed and if you end up in court, be prepared for a thorough investigation into your life. This retaliatory tactic will most likely be exercised in the attempt to discredit you.
You may very well lose your job and find yourself going to court for a lengthy period of time.
A side note: The SEC will commonly pay a bounty for information and has been known to keep the Whistleblower’s identity hidden.
Be Accurate. Don’t make false claims. Expect to have everything thoroughly investigated.
Follow the legal procedures to disclose the information. The closer you follow the law, the safer you will be.
Support is Available. Support may be found through the following:
- National Whistleblowers Center
- American Civil Liberties Union
Parrish Law Firm, PLLC Whistleblower Attorney, located in Manassas and Fairfax works with Northern Virginia citizens who have suffered from compromised working conditions and are looking for fair compensation for their suffering. Contact us today for a free case consultation, or call us at 703-906-4229.
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A representative of the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC researched and wrote this article with Mr. Parrish’s consent. If you have any questions regarding the legal implications of what you have just read, please send us your question by clicking here so we can have our attorney review it.