You may be familiar with the term “whistleblower.” A whistleblower is defined as a person who informs another person or organization or makes public disclosure of corruption or wrongdoing. Whistleblowing occurs in private sector workplaces, as well as government organizations, schools, universities, and other establishments. Certain protections, or whistleblower laws, exist in Ohio and across the United States to prevent employers from retaliating against their employees. In this overview, we’ll be looking at Ohio whistleblower laws as they pertain specifically to employee/workplace settings, but it’s important to recognize these rights can extend to other areas.
The Basics of Ohio Whistleblower Laws
Whistleblowing is more than simply criticizing or “bad mouthing” an employer or workplace. While it’s certainly not uncommon for those types of feelings to be expressed while whistleblowing, the act of whistleblowing is more than just a typical employee gripe. Whistleblowers typically uncover or reveal legal wrongdoings or organized corruption, as opposed to simply calling the boss a jerk.
According to the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA), federal and Ohio laws specifically define whistleblowing as “the reporting of fraud against the government or regarding specific types of suspected violations having to do with securities, tax, financial reporting, Medicare, waste of public funds, suspected felonies, specified crimes, abuse or neglect of residents at a health care facility, discrimination, wage laws and worker’s compensation.”
Often, employees are the ones to “blow the whistle,” but this isn’t always the case. Consumers, contractors, vendors, and any other citizen who suspects wrongdoing can be a whistleblower.
How to Report Whistleblower Complaint in Ohio
Some employers have a set of published company policies or a code of conduct outlining instructions for reporting illegal or otherwise improper conduct. Aside from contacting one of our qualified lawyers, a prospective whistleblower’s first step should be to consult company policy. Usually, a company’s policy will require employees to voice their concerns to a supervisor, manager, or HR personnel. While the requirements of a company policy may differ from the requirements of the applicable law, employees should be aware of any company policies or expectations.
Knowing the legal requirements is crucial when it comes to Ohio whistleblower laws because, otherwise, employees may inadvertently forfeit statutory protection. Ohio whistleblower law provides, in certain situations, that the employee cannot receive whistleblower protection until properly notifying a supervisor or other responsible officer of the wrongdoing. After notifying the employer in accordance with the applicable requirements, the whistleblower can often contact the appropriate outside individuals or organizations and receive certain protections.
Whistleblower laws can be complicated and sometimes require an employee to follow several specific steps in order to receive protection. An attorney can help you follow the right procedures and make sure you send the complaint to the right department.
What rights do Ohio whistleblower laws guarantee you?
If they have followed the proper protocols and successfully navigated the legal channels, whistleblowers in Ohio have legal recourse for retaliatory actions taken against them as a result of their whistleblowing.
However, there are some stipulations of which whistleblowers must also be aware. For example, a whistleblower should consult an attorney if they are considering revealing secret or confidential data or information. It’s also important that employees do not embark on a whistleblowing crusade frivolously. While they may not have to prove they were right about the conduct reported, complaints should be based on a “reasonable belief” and made in good faith. Whistleblowing complaints found to be falsified, intentionally misleading, or unfounded may open employees up to disciplinary or legal action by an employer or government entity.
More Information on Ohio Whistleblowing Laws
Contact one of our attorneys at Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A. at any point before or during the process to help you along the way.