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Do You Have Concerns about Your Employer Breaking the Law? What You Need to Know about Whistleblowing

whistleblowIf you work for an employer you are sure operates above-the-board and is entirely ethical, you should consider it a blessing. Not everyone is this lucky. Some employees, even when they are happy in their work and do not intend to do so, discover their employers are doing something unethical or outright breaking the law.

What should you do if you find yourself in this position?

It’s understandable why you’d be nervous about learning your employer is breaking the law. A few of the questions you’ll likely ask include:

• Can I be held responsible for what’s going on?
• What if my employer is forced out of business?
• Should I report what’s happening?
• Will I be fired if I report what I know?

Learning your employer is doing something illegal puts you in the position to be a whistleblower, and while nobody can tell you what’s the best decision for you, the right thing to do is to report the illegal behavior.

One of the most important things you should know if you become aware of illegal activity within the company for which you work:

You can be held responsible if it is determined you were aware of what was happening and did nothing to report it.

Whatever worries you have about losing your job will seem miniscule if the alternative is facing charges for a crime.

Whistleblower Protection

Even knowing they can be held responsible for what they know, some people choose not to speak up about their employer’s actions because they fear retribution.

But guess what?

You are legally protected from retaliation when you blow the whistle on your employer’s wrongdoing, as long as you do what is required of you. There’s really no reason to not speak up about what you know because you can’t be punished, as long as you meet the legal requirements for whistleblowing.

What is required of you?

For starters, you can’t just badmouth your employer for doing something that makes you angry. Speaking out publicly about something you don’t like about your employer does not make you a whistleblower. If you’re angry you had to work overtime or your boss yelled at you for a mistake, don’t expect to go public with that experience and be protected as a whistleblower.

It’s also important who you share your knowledge with.

If you determine your employer is breaking the law, at least in the financial sector, and you contact the media, you aren’t entitled to whistleblower protections. This is according to the Supreme Court’s most recent ruling concerning whistleblowers.

In February 2018, the Court limited protection for corporate whistleblowers by determining they are not shielded from being fired for speaking up unless they reported the fraud to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This is a significant alteration of the Dodd-Frank Act created following Wall Street’s 2008 collapse that was enacted to encourage employees to speak up when there was wrongdoing.

Despite Congress’s intention to protect whistleblowers in a broad sense, the Court determined the definition of who qualifies as a whistleblower must be narrow – and in include a report filed with the proper authorities.

For more information read, "Supreme Court declines to broaden whistleblower protections"

What does this mean for you?

Regardless whether you learn that your employer is doing something illegal related to finances or another issue, it’s important to protect yourself. You’ll need to report your information to the proper authorities. It’s also important to contact an attorney so you have someone representing you and ensuring your rights are protected.

If you’d like to learn more about whistleblower protections or you think your employer is breaking the law, we can help. Contact New York Employment Attornys, Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. for more information.

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