The basics of whistleblower protection

Whistleblowing typically occurs when a current or former employee reports his or her employer for engaging in illegal or fraudulent practices. When engaging in this type of activity, an employee may experience discrimination or other negative treatment in the workplace. It is an employee's right to fight against such treatment by pursuing legal action.

Due to the risk of retaliation by the employer, there are federal and state regulations in place to provide protection for whistleblowers. The state of Rhode Island has regulations to prohibit both public and private employers from firing, threatening or discriminating against an employee who reports illegal or fraudulent activity to a public body.

An employee has up to three years after a violation of the protection regulation to file a claim for relief or damages.

What does a claim involve?

Common components of most claims include an employee who engaged in whistleblower activity and an employer who was aware of the activity. Retaliation against the employee was motivated, at least in part, by the whistleblower activity.

Retaliation can include discharge from duties and discrimination with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.

In order to establish retaliatory behavior, certain circumstances will be examined such as the timing of the employee's discharge, threats or retaliation against other employees that engaged in whistleblower activity, and previous reviews that expressed satisfaction with the employee's work record.

Other factors that may be considered when determining a claim against an employer include the absence of previous complaints against the employee, the severity of the alleged offense, and evidence that the reporting employee was not guilty of participating in the alleged violation.

Arm yourself with your legal options and knowledge of your rights

It is important for employees to understand their rights and options when they are being retaliated against for engaging in whistleblower activities. Contacting an attorney with experience in employment law is the first step to pursuing justice when facing discrimination in the workplace.

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