Can You Be Fired for Whistleblowing?
Whistleblowers play a key role in enforcing the nation’s laws and regulations. A whistleblower is an employee who “blows the whistle” and alerts government authorities that their employer is breaking criminal or civil laws or regulations. Because whistleblowers are so important, numerous state and federal laws protect them from retaliation by their employers.
However, it is not always clear whether your employer has illegally fired you for blowing the whistle. Instead, you will need to analyze many factors.
Have You Followed Reporting Requirements?
Both New York and New Jersey have passed whistleblower protection laws. However, these laws lay out procedures you must follow to receive protection. For example, New Jersey statute 34:19-3 protects against retaliation any employee who blows the whistle on an employer for:
- Violating a law, rule, or regulation
- Committing fraud
However, statute 34:19-4 only affords protection if the whistleblower provides written notice to a supervisor of their suspicions before informing a government agency. The purpose of the notice requirement is to give your employer a chance to fix the problem.
There are limited exceptions to the notice requirement. For example, if you reasonably believe you face physical harm or the situation is an emergency, then you do not need to provide notice. You also don’t need to provide notice if you are reasonably certain a supervisor knows the violations are occurring. If you don’t provide this notice—or fit into an exception—then the law will not protect you.
Analyze Why You Were Fired
Employers will rarely come right out and announce they are firing you in retaliation for reporting violations to the government. However, there are other suspicious factors to take into consideration:
- How close was your termination to the time when your employer found out you blew the whistle? The shorter the amount of time, the likelier it is that you were fired in retaliation.
- Does your employer have evidentiary support for the alleged reason you were fired? For example, if you are fired for incompetence, do your annual evaluations note your poor performance? If not, retaliation might be the real reason for your termination.
- Did you employer follow their disciplinary code? Your employer might use progressive discipline that starts with a verbal warning and progresses, step by step, up to termination. If your employer skipped steps, they might be retaliating against you.
- Have you heard rumors that management was angry with you for blowing the whistle? If so, write down the names of any witnesses.
When you meet with an employment lawyer, you can discuss the circumstances surrounding your termination to uncover whether anything looks suspicious. In some situations, you might have a valid claim to bring a lawsuit.
Speak with a New Jersey Whistleblowing Lawyer
Fired whistleblowers must move quickly to protect their rights if they hope to bring a charge for retaliatory termination. From the start, you need an experienced whistleblower lawyer by your side. At Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP, our team’s track record is unmatched. We have won some of the largest awards for terminated employees in New York and New Jersey. Please schedule a consultation by calling 609-722-7023 or submitting our contact form.