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When can a worker benefit from whistleblower protection?

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2024 | Employment Law

Employees in Tennessee generally need to conform to employer expectations. The company determines what job functions they need to perform and how they do their work. For the most part, there is an expectation that employees should follow all employer instructions while on the job or accept discipline if they do not.

However, there are limits to those expectations. Employers cannot demand that workers break the law, nor can they intentionally violate workplace safety regulations and put workers at risk. Both federal and state statutes theoretically protect workers who refuse to accept unsafe work conditions or illegal employer requests.

When does a Tennessee employee effectively become a legally-protected whistleblower?

When they report illegal conduct

There are many laws that an employer might violate through business operations. For example, a healthcare provider might alter the charges entered when billing an insurance company for services rendered. When an employee recognizes that the company has done something illegal or requested that they break the law, that worker can refuse to engage in illegal behavior. They may also advise coworkers or management about the legal issues with the current company practices. Workers have whistleblower protection when they internally or externally that may violate the law.

When they report unsafe conditions

Violations of workplace health and safety laws could also potentially force an employee to act as a whistleblower. Particularly for blue-collar employees, the right to speak up about unsafe work conditions is crucial for employee safety. Employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against workers who report safety violations.

How whistleblower protections can help

When a worker refuses to do something illegal, reports illegal activity or speaks up about unsafe work conditions, they should not have to worry about employment consequences for their actions. If an employer retaliates by demoting or terminating a worker who has acted as a whistleblower, that violation of the worker’s rights might lead to a lawsuit.

Companies that violate whistleblower protection statutes may need to offer financial compensation to an affected employee or may need to rehire them after an unjust termination. Learning more about the unique employment laws on the books in Tennessee may benefit those who are dealing with a challenging work environment. Workers who understand whistleblower protections may be able to advocate for themselves and their coworkers as effectively as possible.