Whistleblower Retaliation, Discrimination and Harassment
When an employer violates a law or treats employees improperly, it is vital to report that employer’s wrongdoing by filing a complaint with the appropriate department or agency, or by pursuing an individual claim in court. But employees often hesitate to take action against an employer. They understandably fear losing the jobs on which they have built their lives and supported their families. However, retaliation against whistleblowing employees is illegal under federal and state law. If your employer has taken revenge against you for exposing its wrongdoing, our knowledgeable whistleblower retaliation attorneys can advise you. We have served workers suffering from retaliatory actions since 1994, and we can help you devise an effective strategy to assert your rights.Maine Law Protects Whistleblowers From Firing and Unfair Treatment
Maine law recognizes that the importance of this right to ensuring a workplace free from discrimination, harassment, dangerous conditions, and other forms of malpractice or mistreatment. Thus, whistleblowers are shielded by the Maine Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, which extends beyond parallel federal laws.
Under this law, a Maine worker may not be fired or retaliated against in any way for reporting a suspected violation of law or rule. In most cases, the employee must notify a supervisor of the apparent violation before reporting it to an outside entity. The worker also must give the employer a reasonable time to correct the violation of law before taking further action. However, the employee does not need to notify a supervisor if there is a strong reason to believe that it would be futile.
The Whistleblowers’ Protection Act also extends to workers who notice and report a dangerous condition at their jobs that would jeopardize the health or safety of them or others. The same rules apply as with reporting a suspected violation of law. If the employee is wrong about the violation of law or the dangerous condition, moreover, the employee still will be protected under the Act as long as the employee’s mistake was reasonable, and the report was made in good faith.
Similarly, workers are protected if they refuse to follow an employer’s instructions to commit an illegal act or an act that could seriously injure or kill someone. To get protection, however, the employee first must object to a supervisor and give the supervisor a chance to change the instruction.
In the medical context, the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act protects workers who report suspected malpractice. A health care employee may make a written or oral report if there is reason to believe that medical care provided by the employer is falling below the appropriate standard of care. The report must conform to state and federal privacy laws. It is not necessary to inform the employer before making the report to the patient or the appropriate licensing authority. Some health care employees, law enforcement officials, and people appointed to care for children are required by law to report a reasonable suspicion of abuse or child abuse. Their employer may not retaliate against them for obeying this legal duty.
The Whistleblowers’ Protection Act requires that whistleblower retaliation cases be investigated by the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) before the claim can be pursued in court. The worker must file a complaint with the MHRC within 300 days from the date of retaliation. The Commission will investigate the complaint and issue a decision whether there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that unlawful retaliation occurred.Federal Law Protects Whistleblowers From Adverse Employment Actions
In addition to the Maine Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, there are a number of federal laws that protect whistleblowers, including:
- Occupational Safety & Health Act
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act
- Surface Transportation Assistance Act
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act
- International Safety Container Act of 1974
- Energy Reorganization Act of 1974
- Clean Air Act
- Safe Drinking Water Act
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act
- Toxic Substances Control Act
- Solid Waste Disposal Act
- Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act
- Pipeline Safety Improvement Act
One or more of these federal laws may apply to a whistleblower’s action, and an experienced employment discrimination lawyer can help you understand your rights and pursue the most appropriate remedies if your rights have been violated.The Employment Law Specialists in Our Portland and Bangor Offices Can Help Protect Your Rights
At the Maine Employee Rights Group, we have over 50 years combined experience helping whistleblowers hold employers accountable for illegal retaliation. If illegal conduct is undermining your workplace, you should have the right to speak out without fearing the consequences of losing your job. Unfortunately, despite the legal protections for whistleblowers, many employers still retaliate against these employees. When that happens, you should not hesitate to contact our Maine whistleblower retaliation lawyers for thoughtful and thorough guidance. We serve employees across the state with offices in Portland and Bangor.
Contact us by calling 207.874.0905 or filling out our online form to set up a free initial consultation.
- Example of a whistleblower case we handled where a trucker refused to drive more hours than permitted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Example of a Whistleblower Case We Handled - Whistleblower Retaliation/False Claims Act
- Example of a whistleblower case we handled where a trucker reported unsafe truck conditions to his employer and was terminated shortly thereafter
- Example of a case where employee was fired after complaining to his boss about unsafe working conditions