While typically an employee can be fired at any time for any reason under the “at-will” employment doctrine, employees do have some protections. One of these areas is “whistleblowing laws.” A whistleblower is an employee who reports an unsafe workplace or realizes something illegal is being done at work and makes the difficult decision to report the problem to the authorities.
Federal and state laws were created to protect employees by restricting the possible reasons to fire or discipline an employee. Generally, protected whistleblowing areas include items like reporting observed or suspected racial or gender discrimination and workplace health and safety violations, as well as for filing for workers’ compensation.
These legal protections are for policy reasons to ensure employees are comfortable reporting bad employers to various labor agencies. Fear of losing one’s job is a major barrier to reporting unethical business practices. This is due, in part, to the fact many Americans are surviving only paycheck to paycheck. Not having work even temporarily can result in losing your home or car.
Whistleblower Protections in Maine
The following chart outlines the primary whistleblower laws in Maine.
|Code Sections||Maine Code Revised Title 26: Labor & Industry, Chapter 7: Employment Practices, Subchapter 5-B: Protection of Employees Who Report or Refuse to Commit Illegal Acts AKA Whistleblowers' Protection Act|
|Prohibited Employer Activity||Employers can’t discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate against an employee if that employee:
|Employees Protected||Both public (government) and private sector employees are covered by this law.|
|How to File a Complaint||An employee who feels his or her rights as a whistleblower were violated can file a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission. The complaint should be investigated, informally resolved, and/or arbitrated according to the procedures under the Maine Human Rights Act.|
|Penalties||In addition to possibly having to reinstate a wrongfully fired employee or pay back wages, the employer may owe a civil fine of $10 for each day of the willful violation. This money goes to the State General Fund.|
Getting Legal Help
If you were retaliated against for reporting a violation, unsafe work conditions, or suspected abuse, or for participating in an investigation or refusing to do something illegal, than you should talk to an experienced Maine whistleblower lawyer. You should act quickly to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines to file a complaint.
Note: State laws change all the time. Please contact a knowledgeable attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify these state employment laws.
Research the Law
Contact a qualified attorney.