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What Are the Protections for Whistleblowers?

Employees in Massachusetts and Connecticut should know that there are various types of whistleblower protections in place to ensure that employees are not treated unfairly and unlawfully by employers. Yet what are the specific protections for whistleblowers, and which employees have these protections under state and federal law? In order to understand what whistleblower protections exist for employees in Massachusetts and Connecticut, it is critical to understand when an employee becomes a whistleblower, and then to learn more about state and federal laws that provide specific protections. 

Who Is a Whistleblower?

According to the National Whistleblower Center, generally speaking, “a whistleblower is someone who reports waste, fraud, abuse, corruption, or dangers to public health and safety to someone who is in the position to rectify the wrongdoing.” Yet specific state and federal laws define whistleblowers in particular ways. For example, the federal Whistleblower Protection Act provides protections for federal employees, as well as former federal employees and federal job applicants, who make a “protected disclosure.” According to the statute, a “protected disclosure” may include any of the following cited by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management:

  • Violation of any law, rule, or regulation;
  • Gross mismanagement;
  • Gross waste of funds;
  • Abuse of authority; or
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

Under Connecticut state law, for example, whistleblower protections apply to any employee who “reports, verbally or in writing, a violation or a suspected violation of any state or federal law or regulation or any municipal ordinance or regulation to a public body, or because an employee is requested by a public body to participate in an investigation, hearing or inquiry held by that public body, or court action.” Specific protections apply to municipal employees who report “unethical practices, mismanagement or abuse of authority by such employer.”

Protections Against Retaliation

Both federal and state law provide numerous protections against retaliation for whistleblowers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Once a person is eligible for whistleblower protections, that employee can be protected against any form of retaliation in response to whistleblowing, including but not limited to the following:

  • Wrongful termination;
  • Disciplinary action at work;
  • Transfer or reassignment;
  • Assignment of an unfavorable schedule;
  • Change in duties or responsibilities;
  • Poor performance evaluation;
  • Refusal to promote the employee;
  • Denying the employee benefits or pay, including a bonus;
  • Demotion; and
  • Harassment.

The above examples of retaliation are just some of the unlawful adverse actions an employer can take against an employee in response to whistleblowing, and which are prohibited by federal and state law. Many federal laws and certain state laws in Massachusetts also provide protections against retaliation for employee actions that are similar to whistleblowing. For example, a number of laws provide protections against retaliation for an employee who agrees to participate in an employment discrimination investigation or who provides information about discriminatory practices in the workplace.

Contact a Massachusetts and Connecticut Whistleblower Protection Attorney Today

If you believe you may be eligible for whistleblower protections and if your employer has taken adverse action against you for reporting a violation of the law or other types of wrongdoing, you should seek advice from a whistleblower protection attorney today. Contact Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, LLC online or call us at (413) 785-1400 for more information. We serve clients in Massachusetts and Connecticut.