What is a whistle blower?

A whistleblower is a person who discloses, objects to, or refuses to participate in an activity or practice that the employee believes is in violation of the law or that poses a risk of harm to public health and safety.

What steps should I take if I know my employer is defrauding the government?

There are a number of state and federal whistleblowing statutes that may apply if an employee believes that his or her employer is defrauding the government. Essentially, these statutes prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who “blow the whistle” on potentially illegal or dangerous conduct.

Before an employee discloses the existence of an actual or potential violation of the law to a supervisor or governmental agency or voices an objection to the employer’s illegal practices, he or she would be well-advised to consult with an attorney before doing so. Many of the state and federal whistleblowing statutes are limited in scope and apply only to public sector (i.e. government) employees or employees in specific industries (e.g. healthcare). An experienced employment law attorney will be able to determine whether the employee is afforded protection from retaliation under a state or federal whistleblower statute. Without first finding out whether he or she is protected from retaliation, an employee could be terminated simply for doing the right thing.

Typically, employees in the private sector are employees “at-will” and can be terminated by the employer at any time and for any reason. However, some states allow an otherwise “at-will” employee to sue his or her employer on the grounds that he or she has been wrongfully terminated. In a wrongful termination case, the employee needs to prove that he or she was fired for doing something that the law required him or her to do (e.g. enforcing safety laws, participating in a criminal investigation) or for refusing to do something that the law forbids (e.g. committing perjury). An employee who believes that he or she has been wrongfully terminated for participating in an investigation of employer fraud or who refuses to participate in fraud should consult with an attorney as soon as possible after the termination occurs to protect his or her legal rights.

Martineau Davis & Associates is committed to aggressive advocacy for our clients while maintaining the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and ethical standards. Contact us at 401-234-0751.

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