Whistleblowing protections for employees
By Stacey Neumann, Partner & Chair of Employment Practice Group
We’ve heard a lot about whistleblowing in the news lately, with allegations surrounding a coverup of interference in the 2020 US election. What you may or may not know is that all employees have protections for whistleblowing activities.
A whistleblower is a person who learns of unethical or even illegal activity within their company or government, and reports or refuses to participate in it.
Retaliation against whistleblowing employees is illegal under federal and state law. The Maine Whistleblowers’ Protection Act extends even beyond federal laws. Under the MWPA, an employer may not fire or retaliate against an employee for reporting a suspected violation of law or rule, or, a dangerous condition that jeopardizes the health or safety of them and others. Generally, the employee must notify the employer of the suspected violation and give the employer an opportunity to correct the situation.
It is illegal for your boss to fire you, threaten you, retaliate against you or treat you differently because:
1. You reported a violation of the law;
2. You are a healthcare worker and you reported a medical error;
3. You reported something that risks someone’s health or safety;
4. You have refused to do something that will endanger your life or someone else’s life and you have asked your employer to correct it; or
5. You have been involved in an investigation or hearing held by the government.
You are protected by this law ONLY if:
1. You tell your boss about the problem and allow a reasonable time for it to be corrected; or
2. You have good reason to believe that your boss will not correct the problem.
If you believe you made a qualified whistleblowing report and are being retaliated against because of it, you may have a legal claim and our attorneys can advise you. The MWPA requires that you file a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission within 300 days from the date of retaliation.
Image of poster, which includes the guidelines above, is from the Maine Department of Labor and can be found here.