Whistleblowers serve an important role in the workplace – they help protect the rights of workers, alert the authorities to illegal activities, and generally ensure a fair and equitable work environment for all. Unfortunately, pursuing a whistleblower claim is not without risk. As a result, it’s important to understand what a whistleblower claim is, what your options are, and what rights you may be entitled to. If you think you may have a whistleblower claim, a Maryland employment lawyer can review your case and provide you with valuable guidance.
What is a Whistleblower?
A whistleblower is typically an employee inside of a business, governmental entity, or other organization that reports conduct that is prohibited by law or falls into one of the following categories:
- The organization’s conduct poses a risk to public safety
- The organization is wasting public funds
- The organization is involved in fraud
- The organization’s conduct would violate public trust
It can at times be difficult to determine whether or not imprudent or distasteful actions taken by your employer rise to the level of a whistleblower claim. This is one of the reasons you should speak with a Maryland employment lawyer before taking action that could jeopardize your job.
It can also be sometimes difficult to distinguish a whistleblower claim from a retaliation claim. Generally speaking, whistleblower claims involve a threat to more than one person – perhaps all of the business’s employees or the public at large. For example, a whistleblower claim would be appropriate if your employer is engaged in widespread discrimination, whereas it may not be appropriate if your employer has discriminated only against you.
Who Can Be a Whistleblower?
While most whistleblowers are former or current employees or other people within the organization, anyone who has evidence of wrongdoing can pursue a whistleblower claim. In addition to current and formers employees, the following people can also pursue whistleblower claims:
You can also pursue a whistleblower claim even if you were involved in the conduct at issue, especially if you participated unknowingly or at the direction of your supervisor. In addition, you do not need to have been a witness to the conduct. However, you should discuss your case with a Maryland employment lawyer to determine whether you have sufficient evidence to move forward.
Can I Remain Anonymous?
Many whistleblowers are worried about losing their job or facing other adverse action if they pursue their claim. This is certainly a valid concern. Depending on the nature of your claim, you may be able to file your complaint anonymously or may be entitled to a period of confidentiality. There are a wide variety of whistleblower laws and programs under both federal and Maryland state law. However, your identity may be revealed in the litigation process, or your employer may be able to figure out your identity on their own.
For these reasons, you should seek advice from a Maryland employment lawyer before taking action – while helping fight illegal activity can be very gratifying, being a whistleblower can make your life fairly difficult. These claims are complex and can proceed slowly.
Am I Entitled to Compensation for Pursuing a Whistleblower Claim?
As mentioned above, there are many different types of whistleblower laws, some of which entitled complainants to receive a financial reward if their claim is successful. The purpose of these rewards is to incentivize whistleblowers to come forward and help combat fraud. However, these rewards are sometimes modest, and it can be difficult to determine at the outset whether you will receive anything.
Am I Protected from Retaliation if I Pursue a Whistleblower Claim?
In general, you are protected by both federal and state law from being fired due to pursuing a whistleblower claim. Whistleblowing is considered a “protected activity” under anti-retaliation laws and can be a separate legal claim against your employer, which may entitle you to the following:
- Lost wages and other income
- Reinstatement to your former position
- Punitive damages
In addition, you are not just entitled to protection from termination. Whistleblower and anti-retaliation laws also entitle you to protection from many adverse actions, including the following:
- Being demoted
- Withdrawal of promotions or pay raises
- Denial of overtime or benefits
Employers can sometimes engage in subtle adverse actions in response to a whistleblower claim, such as negative performance reviews, reduced hours, or sudden transfers. Ultimately, a Maryland employment lawyer can help protect you from adverse actions should you decide to pursue a whistleblower claim.
Contact Maryland Employment Lawyer J.W. Stafford if You Have a Whistleblower Claim
Whistleblower claims are complex. Even if you don’t necessarily have a whistleblower claim, you may have other legal rights that you can pursue. If you are in a difficult situation at work, give us a call at 410-514-6099 or contact us online to discuss your case and options.