Employees have the right to report any dangerous or unethical behavior by their employers. Whistleblower laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees that speak up when they see misconduct. If your employer has retaliated against you, you may be able to file a lawsuit against him or her. Call a whistleblower lawyer in Charlotte at Gibbons Leis, PLLC to discuss your options: 704-612-0038.
What is a whistleblower case?
Whistleblowers are employees who, having reasonable belief that their employer is involved in some illegal or unethical activity, report that misconduct to the appropriate authorities. If an employer retaliates against an employee for “whistleblowing,” he or she has violated that employee’s rights and broken the law.
Retaliation can come in many forms including:
- Firing of the whistleblower
- Denying the whistleblower a promotion he was qualified for
- Deducting wages or hours
- Threats, harassment, or intimidation
- Denying benefits
Which laws protect whistleblowers?
Federal and state whistleblower laws protect employees who have a reasonable belief that their employer broke the law.
Federal laws protecting whistleblowers include:
- Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA): The main federal law that protects whistleblowers from adverse actions
- Federal False Claims Act (FCA)
- Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (DFA)
- Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX)
The following are North Carolina state laws that protect whistleblowers from retaliation.
North Carolina Common Law
Generally, employers can fire employees at any time under the state’s at-will employment doctrine. However, there is a public policy exception to this doctrine that prevents employers from taking action that would go against public policy. North Carolina common law protects employees from retaliation if the employee:
- Refuses to participate in illegal conduct
- Assist with an investigation
- Refuse to lie under oath
- Refuse to accept a wage rate less than the minimum wage
- Refusing to participate in conduct that puts the public at risk
North Carolina’s Whistleblower Act
This act protects state employees for reporting improper government activities. In North Carolina, under Article 14 G.S. §126-84, employers may not retaliate against state employees who report:
- Violations of law
- Anything that endangers the public
- Gross mismanagement and misappropriation of resources
Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA)
Under REDA, employers may not terminate, penalize, or discriminate against an employer for any of the following:
- Filing a complaint involving the Wage and Hour Act, Workers’ Compensation Act, or other North Carolina employment laws
- Opposing work discrimination against disabled people
- Testifying under the Employment Security Act in an unemployment proceeding
- Public employees reporting a violation of law, fraud, or danger to public safety
- Assisting in an investigation
Filing a Whistleblower Lawsuit
In general, employees must file a whistleblower suit with the appropriate court within three years of the employer’s retaliation. It is in your best interest to work with a lawyer to protect your rights under whistleblower laws.
Proving that your employer violated your rights can be challenging. You will need to prove that:
- Your employer retaliated against you after you engaged in conduct protected by whistleblower laws.
- Your employer was aware of your protected conduct
- Your employer retaliated because of your whistleblowing.
To prove these criteria, you will need circumstantial evidence to establish a connection between the protected activity and the negative employment action.
If you are able to establish retaliation, your employer will likely try to convince the court that there was a legitimate reason for his or her actions.
You must then be able to prove that your employer’s reason is a false excuse and that the real reason has to do with you exercising your rights. Even if your employer’s reason is legitimate, you may be able to win your case if you are able to show that your actions were the primary reason for the retaliation.
A Charlotte whistleblower attorney from Gibbons Leis, PLLC can identify all important evidence, documents, and witnesses to help you establish a strong case.
What recourse do whistleblowers have?
Whistleblowers are entitled to the following if they can prove that their employers retaliated against them:
- An injunction to stop the employer from continuing to violate the law
- Reinstatement of the employee to the position he or she held before the retaliation
- Promotion (if the employer denied promotion or demoted the employee due to the whistleblowing)
- Reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights
- Compensation for lost wages and benefits
- Other economic losses caused by the retaliation
- Attorney’s fees and costs
- Liquidated damages (three times the compensatory damages) if the court finds the employer willfully violated the law
You should never have to fear retaliation for doing what you believe is right. If you believe your employer retaliated against you because you reported his or her wrongdoings, you have legal options.
Gibbons Leis, PLLC stands up for whistleblowers that have suffered mistreatment from their employers. We will investigate your case, determine whether you have a valid claim, and help represent you against your employer.
To schedule a free consultation with Phil Gibbons, call 704-612-0038.