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Help! My Employer is Breaking Environmental Laws and I Don’t Know What to Do!

The downside of living and working in an industrialized country is that producing sometimes means polluting the environment. The government has done a great deal to control pollution and businesses are expected to adhere to laws restricting the amount of pollution they can produce in an effort to balance the needs of industrialization with the health of the environment. Unfortunately, some companies try to bypass these laws and try to make things easier on them by polluting more than they are permitted to under the laws.

As a citizen and responsible employee, you have an obligation – both legally and ethically – to report wrongdoing. If you learn your employer is violating laws designed to protect the environment, you should take action. However, it can be frightening to do so, especially if you are concerned your job is at risk. What should you do?

You might feel powerless against a large company, so it’s important to understand there are organizations in place to support you. Their job is to accept and investigate reports of wrongdoing, and offer those reporting the issues protection if their employers try to retaliate.

Contacting the Authorities

One of the first steps to reporting wrongful actions is to contact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or a state agency similar to the EPA. You might be directed to your local law enforcement agency, or another state or federal agency that will then handle the investigation. Chances are you will be asked for evidence. Though you are not obligated to possess immediate evidence necessary to prove your claims, you should have reasonable accusations and some semblance of proof that you aren’t just an unhappy employee out for revenge.

Contacting law enforcement or a government agency can be intimidating, especially if you are simultaneously concerned about the security of your job. This is why it is a good idea to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney before filing a claim. He or she can help you organize the information you have and present it in an appropriate way. Not to mention you’ll feel more confident with someone in your corner protecting your best interests.

What It Means to be a Whistleblower

As someone who makes a claim concerning pollution against his or her employer, you are considered a whistleblower and protected under whistleblower laws. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for protecting you from retaliation for filing a valid claim against your employer for polluting. There are also nearly two dozen federal laws in place ensuring you will not be made a victim for reporting wrongdoing by your employer. There may also be state laws that can protect you.

For more information on the protections offered to whistleblowers by the federal government, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs.

Deciding to Report Knowledge of Environmental Polluting within Your Company

There’s two important things you should keep in mind if you learn of wrongdoing within your company. First, realize that regardless of the laws in place to protect you, filing a report against your company can make for some unpleasant workdays. You cannot be fired, have your pay reduced, be demoted, or be directly retaliated against, but there are no laws against co-workers and others within your company treating you with general unpleasantness. The law is not a general civility code.

How an Attorney Can Help You Report Wrongdoing Related to the Environment

Ultimately, you need to make the decision about how you will act if you learn your company is doing something illegal. However, the most important thing you can do is consult an expert who understands your rights and can work to protect you as you move forward.

For more information or to discuss with someone your knowledge of wrongdoing, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. for more information.


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