A whistleblower is an employee who becomes aware of something illegal or unethical being carried out by his or her employer and makes the difficult decision to report the matter to the authorities. Federal and state laws were developed to protect these brave whistleblowers from being fired or disciplined at work.
Sometimes, whistleblowers feel torn about whether they will be held accountable as participating in the crime or exposed to personal liability for illegal activity at work they discover if they do nothing, or whether they may also lose their job if they do something about it. Most Americans today are living paycheck to paycheck and even temporarily losing a job can result in losing your home or car. Many employees also feel a sense of loyalty to their employers and the act of whistleblowing can feel like a betrayal.
The tables below outline the main Utah whistleblower laws.
|Code Sections||Utah Code Title 67, Chapter 21: Protection of Public Employees Act|
|What is an Employer Prohibited From Doing?||An employer can’t discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate if an employee reports, testifies, or refuses to carry out a directive that violates a law or regulation of the local, state, or federal government or shows the waste of public funds, property, or workforce.|
|What Employees Are Protected?||Only public or government employees.|
|Remedies||The employee can file a civil action within 180 days of the employer’s violation for an injunction stopping the firing or other discrimination or for actual damages, as well as court and attorney's fees. In addition, the court can award reinstatement, back pay, full fringe benefits, and seniority rights to the whistleblowing employee.|
|Penalties||The violator is subject to a civil fine of at most $500. In comparison, a knowingly false accusation by an employee can be punished by termination and up to a $5,000 fine.|
Another area where there are legal protection against retaliation for whistleblowers is OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) complaints about unsafe working conditions. The OSHA wants to encourage workers to inform the agency of problems so it can do its job keeping the nation’s workplaces safe. Utah also protects whistleblowers in this area from, for example, informing the Labor Commission about hazards likely to cause death or physical harm.
|Code Section||Utah Code Section 34A-6-203: Discharge or Discrimination Against Employee Prohibited|
|What is an Employer Prohibited From Doing?||An employer can’t discharge or discriminate in any manner against an employee for filing a complaint, testifying, or exercising any other right granted under the Utah Occupational Safety and Health Act.|
|What Employees Are Protected?||Public and private employees are both protected.|
|Remedies||The employee must file a complaint with the Labor Commission about the employer’s violation within 30 days and stopping the violation and reinstatement of employee and back pay can be ordered.|
If you feel you were retaliated against for doing the right thing and exposing or declining to do something illegal, than you should speak with a lawyer who knows how to represent whistleblowers. Some claims have short time limits, so it’s best to act quickly.
Note: State laws are being updated all the time -- contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify these employment laws.
Research the Law
Contact a qualified attorney.