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How Rhode Island’s whistleblower law protects workers doing the right thing

On Behalf of | May 29, 2024 | Whistleblower Cases

In Rhode Island’s business environment, most companies strive to get ahead while still obeying the law. Ethical and legal conduct is the cornerstone of such enterprises, ensuring fair play and integrity. Yet, there are instances where individuals engage in illicit activities to either advance the company’s interests or their own personal gain. Crimes taking place in corporate boardrooms and manager’s offices often escape the notice of law enforcement. In many cases, justice will only be served if an insider steps up and reports it to the authorities.

Protection under Rhode Island law

The state of Rhode Island recognizes the critical role these brave individuals, known as whistleblowers, play in maintaining legal and ethical workplaces. Naturally, without legal protection, whistleblowers would be at serious risk of getting fired, demoted or other retaliation from managers and executives unhappy about being exposed.

To safeguard these conscientious employees, Rhode Island has enacted robust whistleblower protection statutes. Specifically, R.I. General Law § 28-50-3 makes it illegal to retaliate against an employee who reports, or plans to report, any illegal conduct they encounter at their workplace.

An employer cannot retaliate against a whistleblower by firing or threatening them, discriminating against them based on their status as a protected class or any other adverse action. Furthermore, employers are prohibited from using an employee’s immigration status as a weapon in retaliation, such as by threatening to get them deported if they blow the whistle. These protections extend to those participating in investigations or refusing to partake in illegal acts.

Right to compensation

Should an employer illegally retaliate against a whistleblower,  the employee has the right to sue for compensation. Retaliation can affect your income, career and reputation. You may qualify for compensation for lost wages, both past and future, as well as emotional distress and more. This right serves as both a deterrent against unethical employer behavior and as a means of making aggrieved employees whole.

Seeking legal guidance

If you believe you have faced retaliation for whistleblowing, it is important to understand that you are not alone and the law is on your side. It is advisable to consult with an employment law attorney who can provide guidance on your case and help you explore your legal options.