"Whistleblowing" is a term used when an employee reports an illegal action or business practice on their employer's part. When we see something in the workplace that puts people at risk or is an unfair action, such as an act of discrimination, we probably do not want these things to happen again. Many people refrain from whistleblowing though, because they fear for the future of their careers. Can your employer fire you if you blow the whistle on their actions?
The short answer is no. You are legally protected from retaliation by your employer in these cases. Retaliation includes more than just termination of employment. Your employer cannot harass you, lower your pay, demote you or other such actions on account of whistleblowing either. Sometimes employers attempt to retaliate anyway, but they can then be held accountable for this as well.
What actions can you report?
You can report any action that is illegal or goes against public policy. This could include the following and more:
· Preventing you from seeking workers' compensation
· Discriminatory behavior toward employees
· Giving unequal pay to those in the same position
· Violating health or safety codes
· Not keeping a list of hazardous chemicals or materials in the workplace
· Refusing to let you take meal or rest breaks
· Retaliating against you for testifying in court
Is there a time limit to file?
Usually, you can blow the whistle on your employer within one year of the incident. The time limit may be different in some situations though. If you are filing with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission for a discriminatory act, you have 180 days from the incident, or you can file with an appropriate court within a year. If you are reporting a safety or health violation, you must file with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce within 30 days of the incident.
What if my employer tries to retaliate anyway?
It is a scary situation any time you think your job is in danger, but it is especially nerve-wracking when you face termination just because you are trying to do the right thing. Remember: you are legally protected. If your employer retaliates, immediately consult an employment law attorney. They can protect your rights, fight for compensation for the wrong that was done to you, and work to bring your employer to justice.