There are some things that you simply cannot control when it comes to your ability to earn a living. But when other forces that should be within your control suddenly spin out, it can be very distressing. Retaliation is one of those things. Let’s say that your employer violated the law or there was a dangerous condition at your job. After much deliberation, you decided to report this for the safety of your coworkers and for the overall health of the company. Perhaps this issue didn’t affect you personally, but you were concerned for others at your workplace. Or perhaps this issue directly affected you—moreover, it harmed you. Regardless, you thought you were safe in reporting this unlawful act, whatever it was. You didn’t expect your employer to retaliate against you—but you are disciplined, or even fired. What are you going to do? You need help—legal help—and you need it fast.
It is critical that Cincinnati workers understand their legal rights if an employer chooses not to play fair. But what does “playing fair” mean when it comes to employment law issues? One thing it means is that employers must abide by the state’s regulations for protecting employees who report violations of federal or state law. Under some circumstances, whistleblower protections protect employees who report violations affecting the safety, health, and welfare of another employee or the public at large.
Whistleblower Protection in Ohio
The Ohio Bar Association has created a list of frequently asked questions regarding the rights of whistleblowers in Cincinnati. When deliberating whether the risk of losing a job outweighs the benefits of taking corrective action and reporting broken laws, employees may feel they face an insurmountable task. It is unfortunate that this should even have to be a concern for you. Yet, employees who witness law-breaking or other questionable actions by their employers must take care to know their legal rights and how to protect them before they take corrective action.
Potential Cincinnati whistleblowers should be aware of certain information when weighing whether or not to disclose possibly damaging information about their workplace. First of all, what is whistleblowing? It is the reporting of fraud against the government or suspected violations of the law. Generally speaking, whistleblowing is protected under Ohio law, if the information’s release was in the state’s best interest. Examples of violations that should be reported are ones that have to do with: securities, tax, Medicare, abuse or neglect of nursing home or assisted living facility residents by health care staff, discrimination, wage laws, and workers’ compensation. However, it is often crucially important that you know the following:
- Exactly how you are to report,
- To whom you are to report,
- And what you must report.
Doing any of these incorrectly, or failing to take the proper steps, may result in your loss of any protections the law would otherwise provide to you.
If your work covers one of these substantial areas involving financial disclosures or reporting, Medicare payments, public funding issues (like workers’ compensation payments), crimes or neglect of nursing home or others receiving care in a health care facility, and wage issues, you may have legal remedies extending beyond your workplace.
What can you do to protect yourself?
The fact is that whistleblower protection law is complex and not always intuitive. We recently took a case all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court to establish that a hospice nurse could not be fired for reporting suspected abuse or neglect of an elderly assisted living resident to the resident’s daughter. The defendants argued that the nurse had not reported it correctly. Until our case was decided, the law in Ohio was unclear on that point. It is best to consult an experienced lawyer to learn what you should do in your specific situation.
If you have been witness to, or have evidence related to violations of federal or state law, you should consult your company’s policy on reporting. Many workplaces supply a human resources guide upon being hired. If your company has a procedure in place to report workplace problems, those may be the appropriate steps to take. However, you should not depend upon the company’s policies as an accurate statement of the law, nor should you depend upon them to protect your legal rights. If the actions pose an immediate threat to the health and safety of another person, then alerting the police or other emergency personnel may make sense. By all means, use your best judgment in deciding who needs to be alerted to protect yourself and others in an emergency. But when possible, consult an experienced employment lawyer to be sure you protect your own rights and safety.
If the employee has evidence related to wage law violations or other employment issues, reporting this information may be protected by state law. Speaking to an experienced Cincinnati, Ohio, whistleblower attorney to discuss filing a lawsuit can be very important and can help to ensure that you adhere to Ohio and federal law. If you have been wronged after reporting an injustice or unlawful act in your workplace, it is ultimately our goal that you recover the appropriate compensation in court for your damages.
However, Ohio’s whistleblower statute is very complicated and difficult to understand—even for lawyers and judges. You should consult a lawyer if at all possible to be sure you follow the complicated procedures in the Ohio Whistleblower statute.
Responsibilities as a Whistleblower
The reporting procedure must be followed in order to receive protection under either Ohio or federal statute. Another requirement is that the report has been made in good faith and with a reasonable belief that the actions have violated the law. Although the complaint will be thoroughly investigated, the “complaint does not have to be proven right.” Potential whistleblowers ought to keep in mind the important distinction between factual accuracy and making intentionally false or unfounded complaints. If a complaint is found to be falsified, the employee may “face workplace discipline or penalties for reporting false information to the government.”
Another important facet to the proceedings is confidentiality. If the person reporting has done so anonymously, then confidentiality is kept in place. However, reporting anonymously precludes the choice of filing a lawsuit and, with it, the ability to recover damages.
Speak to a Knowledgeable Whistleblower Attorney
By consulting a Cincinnati attorney experienced with whistleblower issues, you will be able to proceed confidently during what can be a very intimidating process.
Our helpful staff and attorneys have a strong record of success at trial and would like to help you sort out the facts and details of your situation. If we feel that we are a good fit for your situation, we will represent you aggressively and with the compassion that you deserve. Call us to see how we can help you.