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Tennessee Whistleblower Laws

To "blow the whistle" on an employer is to report a violation of the law or of the public trust to the proper authorities, which creates the potential for a public relations nightmare. Since public agencies and private corporations may be inclined to silence "whistleblowers," most states have whistleblower laws in place to protect these employees from retaliation and to encourage them to speak out. Tennessee has two distinct whistleblower statutes:

  1. Tenn. Code Section 50-1-304: Allows whistleblowers to bring "qui tam" actions against an employer that has defrauded the government; and
  2. Tenn. Code Section 50-3-409: Protects public and private employees from retaliation when speaking out about an occupational safety or health violation

A qui-tam action is a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleges that the employer has defrauded the government. If the federal or state government recovers for its losses, the individual who brings the qui tam action may receive a percentage of the award. Retaliation may include termination, being passed over for a deserved promotion, being harassed or threatened, or otherwise receiving negative treatment in response to your whistleblower action.

The following charts highlight the main provisions of each of Tennessee's whistleblower statutes.

Code Section 50-3-106; 50-3-409
Prohibited Employer Activity Cannot discharge or discriminate if employee files a complaint, institutes a proceeding, or testifies regarding a violation of any statute or regarding occupational safety and health
Protection for Public or Private Employees? Both
Opportunity for Employer to Correct? -
Remedies Can file a complaint with Commission of Labor within 30 days of the violation for reinstatement, back pay, and other appropriate relief
Penalties -

 

Code Section 50-1-304
Prohibited Employer Activity Cannot discharge or terminate if employee refuses to participate in or refuses to remain silent about violation of criminal or civil code, US laws, or neglect to protect public health, safety or welfare
Protection for Public or Private Employees? Public
Opportunity for Employer to Correct? -
Remedies Can sue employer for retaliatory discharge, get damages, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs
Penalties -

Note: State laws are constantly changing. We work hard to make sure these pages are up-to-date, but you may want to contact a Tennessee whistleblower attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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