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Your rights under whistleblower retaliation laws

Often times employers are less than enthusiastic when they find out that an employee has reported violations to an established agency. Termination of that employee is generally the result. Fortunately, for those who have been the victim of unlawful termination, the law does provide certain remedies.

Sometimes a whistleblower case may be covered by more than one statute. The variance in coverage may depend on where the action took place and who the person worked for. He or she may also find remedies or relief under tort or contract law as a result of whistleblower retaliation.

Whisteblower laws are designed to protect employees from unlawful retaliation, and empower them to report unlawful or unsafe working conditions that go against public policy. Unfortunately, the scope and nature of whistleblower protections vary by state. In some states the protections are quite broad, in others, very narrow.

The statute of limitations to file a whistleblower case can often be very short, such as short as 30 days in federal cases. In most cases, the statute of limitations for this type action generally starts the moment someone becomes aware that retaliation will take place, not after it has already occurred.

The remedies and applicable damages that are recoverable vary by state. In some states, if someone can file a claim under a federal statute, then he or she is barred from filing a state claim. Under the laws of res judicata and collateral estoppel, an employee may be prevented from filing both an administrative and common law claim.

To file a whistleblower protection claim, the plaintiff must be or have been working in a capacity as an employee covered by or have been engaged in an activity a protected under the statute. It also must be able to be proven that the employer terminated the employee because of knowledge of the action.

The plaintiff must prove the discriminatory nature of his or her termination, including denial of compensation and other privileges. This means that the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that he or she would not have fallen victim to adverse action had he or she not engaged in whistleblower protected activities.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of whistleblower retaliation, an experienced Michigan employment law attorney may be able to help you understand your employee rights as you wade the murky waters that exist in the area of whistleblower protection laws.

Source: National Whistleblower Center, "Know Your Rights FAQ," accessed Jan. 25, 2017

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