If you are a human resources manager or wish to become one, you must be familiar with whistle-blowing laws. A whistle-blower is an employee of your organization who reports another employee for something that is believed to be wrong, dishonest or illegal. Even if that information is harmful to the company or its executives, there cannot be any sort of retaliation against the whistle-blower because the laws that protect them can carry steep penalties if the employee brings about a lawsuit for such retaliation.
It is in your best interest and that of your company to comply with all laws and human resources procedures surrounding whistle-blowing. Let’s take a look at an overview of some of these laws and their implications.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
In 2002, the United States government passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in order to address some rampant corruption that had taken place around that period. The main purpose of the act was to cut down on corporate wrongdoings such as fraud, but there were provisions placed within that addressed whistle-blowing, providing protections for those who came forward in a genuine attempt to provide information regarding crimes or other dishonest acts.
According to the act, if an employee complains about illegal acts by an employer such as fraud or other wrongdoing, that employee is protected against retaliation. There is no penalty for the allegations being wrong, as long as the complaint was made with good faith intent. Therefore, there is no need to worry about counter suit or other penalties due to coming forward with erroneous information. The complaint can be made to a law enforcement agency or even simply to an employee’s supervisor. All protections stand.
Other Whistle-Blowing Laws
There are a number of other federal laws that protect whistle-blowers from such things as reporting discrimination in hiring or other practices, harassment in the workplace and violations of health codes. These laws all state variations of the fact that an employee cannot be retaliated against in any way for making a complaint against an employer. Retaliatory measures of any kind, such as being fired or even harassed, are prohibited by these laws. There is a law specifically for employees of an industry who make complaints about that industry, such as the government itself or an industry that deals with the transport of hazardous materials.
State Whistle-Blower Laws
There are a number of state that have their own laws pertaining to whistle-blowers who complain about issues surrounding things like like mandatory time off for jury duty, family and medical leave, state wage laws and discrimination. These laws are usually written so as to complement or add specifics to federal laws already on the book.
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Many of the state specific laws make provisions that allow employees to sue in cases where they were fired or penalized in violation of public policy. Each state is different in their allowances regarding public policy, and some do not allow for it whatsoever. Be sure to take time to review your state’s laws.
Whistle-blowers are guaranteed protection from making legitimate claims by numerous state and federal laws. A whistle-blower does not need to be fearful of retaliation when complaining about employer violations.