Whistleblowers are employees or officers who “out” misconduct in an organization. This can include waste, fraud, abuse, harassment, discrimination, and all sorts of questionable or dishonest practices. It’s not uncommon for different people to have different views of whistleblowers – high-minded informers or noble protectors of the public good. Federal and state laws generally take the latter view, and various protections exist for whistleblowers depending on the conduct at issue and the applicable law. Here’s a summary of the law in South Dakota.
Whistleblower Protections: South Dakota Law
South Dakota’s whistleblower protection statutes are relatively narrow. Employees who complain about or take part in proceedings related to violations of state wage law are protected against discharge, discrimination, reprisals, and threats. Similar protections exist for an employee who gives information or files charges in cases alleging sex-based discrimination in wages.
Additional statutory provisions prohibit reprisals against anyone for filing a charge or aiding in an investigation related to unlawful discrimination. State employees have their personal constitutional rights to free expression expressly protected in statute. And state employees who are retaliated against for reporting a violation of state law can file a grievance through the Civil Service Commission.
There are also court-crafted common law protections. South Dakota courts have protected whistleblowers against discharge when their actions have helped serve the “public good.” Courts have prevented employers from firing employees who refused to commit a criminal or unlawful act, filed workers’ compensation claims, or reported unlawful conduct to a supervisor. Fitting a whistleblower claim under the common law “public good” protection can be difficult, however.
The following table provides a summary of South Dakota’s whistleblower laws.
Reporting violations of state wage laws (60-11-17.1);
Reporting sex-based wage discrimination (60-12-21);
Reporting unlawful discrimination (20-13-26);
Grievance procedure for state employees subject to retaliation (3-6D-22).
|Prohibited Employer Activity||Retaliation against whistleblowers who report or assist in investigating wage violations, unlawful discrimination cases, and state employees who report unlawful activity.|
|Protection for Public or Private Employees?||Both, depending on the provision.|
|Opportunity for Employer to Correct?||-|
|Remedies & Penalties||-|
Related Resources for Whistleblower Laws
Whistleblowers can face difficult employment prospects and a break-down in professional and personal relationships. Filing a lawsuit can recover damages for wrongful job loss and retaliation in the workplace. More information on state whistleblower laws can be found here. There are also extensive federal whistleblower protection laws on the books. You can speak with a local employment lawyer for a more specific evaluation of your particular case and possible legal options.
Contact a qualified attorney.