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State Whistleblower Laws

State Whistleblower Laws

November 2010

Whistleblowers are persons, often employees or former employees, who report illegal or fraudulent activity by an employer, government or organization.  Employees may risk retaliation from their employers for making such reports, giving rise to state and federal protections for whistleblowers.

In addition to the state laws listed below, there are numerous federal laws with whistleblower protections that apply to public and private employers.  An overview of federal provisions can be found on the U.S. Dept. of Labor website.
 

State Citation Covers Provisions
Alabama §13A-12-1 state employees State Employees Protection Act
Alaska §39.90.110, et seq. public employees Prohibits public employers from discharging, threatening, or otherwise discriminating against a public employee who reports to a public body or participates in a court action or inquiry on a matter of public concern.  Employers are liable for compensatory and punitive damages and civil fines of up to $10,000.
Arizona ARS 38-532.   It is a prohibited personnel practice for an employee who has control over personnel actions to take reprisal against an employee for a disclosure of information of a matter of public concern by the employee to a public body that the employee reasonably believes evidences:
Arkansas none    
California Govt. Code §§53296 et seq. all employers It is unlawful for an employer to make or enforce a rule or policy or to retaliate against an employee for disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency if the employee reasonably believes the information involves a violation of state or federal law.  Claims must be reported to the State Division of Labor Standards Enforcement within 90 days of the alleged retaliatory act.
Colorado §24-50.5-101 et seq. state employees State employees are protected from retaliation, including discharge, by their supervisor or agency for disclosing information about the actions of a state agency that are not in the public interest, such as waste of public funds, abuse of authority or mismanagement of the agency.
Connecticut §§31-51m & 4-61dd public and private employers It is unlawful for a public or private employer to discriminate against an employee, including discharge, discipline or penalty, for reporting to a public body a violation or suspected violation of any state, federal or local law.  Employees knowingly making a false report are not protected and can be discharged.  An aggrieved employee can bring a civil suit for reinstatement, back-pay and benefits, after exhausting administrative remedies.  Suites must be filed within 90 days of the alleged discriminatory treatment or final administrative action, which ever is later.  Prevailing employees can recover costs and attorney fees.  Any person can report to the state Attorney General alleged corruption, unethical practices, violation of state law, waste of funds, mismanagement, abuse of authority, or danger of public safety.  Disclosure of the name of the employee is prohibited as is retaliation against such person.  Persons knowingly making false reports can be dismissed.
Delaware Title 29, §5115 public employees Public employees can not be discharged, threatened or discriminated against for reporting a violation or suspected violation of a state or federal law to the Office of the Auditor of Accounts, unless the employee knew the report to be false.  Aggrieved employees can bring a civil suit for damages within 90 days of the alleged discrimination.
DC none    
Florida §448.102 public and private employers An employer may not take retaliatory personnel action against an employee because the employee has disclosed or threatened to disclose to a government agency an activity, policy or practice that is in violation of a law; or testified before an entity conducting an investigation into possible violations; or refused to participate in an activity, policy or practice that is in violation of a law, rule or regulation.  Public employees cannot be discharged, disciplined, or subjected to adverse personnel action for making disclosures involving a violation of state or federal law that creates a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety or welfare.
Georgia none    
Hawaii §378-61 et seq. private and public employers Under the Hawaii Whistleblowers Protection Act, private and public employers cannot discharge, threaten or discriminate against an employee regarding compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment because the employee reports a violation or suspected violation of a state, federal or local law, unless the employee knows the report to be false.  Greater protections provided for by collective bargaining agreements take precedence.  Aggrieved employees may bring a civil suit within 90 days.  Courts may order reinstatement, back-pay, and court costs, along with attorneys fees.  An employer may be fined up to $500 for each violation.
Idaho none    
Illinois 20 ILCS 415/19c.1 public employees Public employees cannot be disciplined for disclosing information that they reasonably believe shows a violation of any rule or law, or mismanagement, waste of funds, abuse of authority, or specific and substantial danger to public health or safety.  The reporting employee’s name cannot be disclosed without their consent.
Indiana §4-15-10-4 state employees It is unlawful to discharge, deny salary or benefits, demote, transfer or reassign a state employee for reporting a violation of state or federal laws, agency regulation or misuse of public resources.  Reports must be filed first with the employee’s supervisor.  If no action is taken in a reasonable time, the employee can “go public” with the information or report it to another agency or organization.  The employee is not protected if the information is false.
Iowa §§19A.19 & 70A.29 state employees It is unlawful to discharge or take personnel action against a state employee in reprisal for a disclosure of a violation of a law or rule, mismanagement, abuse of fund, abuse of authority, or substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, unless such disclosure is specifically prohibited by law.  Employees of a state political subdivision cannot be discharged or retaliated against for disclosing similar information to a member of the General Assembly or an official of the state or a political subdivision.
Kansas §75-2973 state employees State employees cannot be disciplined for discussing the operations of the agencies with a member or the legislature or for reporting a violation of state or federal law.  They are not required to inform their supervisors before reporting the violation but they are required to inform their supervisors of legislative requests and the nature of the testimony they will provide.  State employees may be disciplined for providing false testimony or disclosing confidential information.  Aggrieved state employees can seek relief in court or before the state civil service board. 
Kentucky §61.102 et seq. state employees The state and political subdivisions cannot retaliate, threaten or discriminate against an employee who in good faith reports to state officials or agencies, the General Assembly, the Legislative Research Commission, judicial branch or law enforcement agencies a violation or suspected violation of state, federal or local law or regulation, or mismanagement, waste, fraud or endangerment of the public health.  Employees are not required to give notice prior to making such a report but can be required to inform their employer of any official request to the agency for information and the substance of the testimony to be provided.  Employees may be disciplined for providing false or confidential information.  An aggrieved employee may file suit within 90 days for damages, reinstatement and back-pay.
Louisiana §§30:1074.1 & 23:964 all employers It is unlawful for employers to retaliate against any employee who in good faith reports or complains about possible violations of federal, state, or local environmental protection laws.  Aggrieved employees can bring suit in district court for triple damages, costs and attorney fees.  Employers cannot discharge or discriminate against an employee for furnishing information or testifying in an investigation of a violation of state labor laws.  Criminal penalties apply, with fines up to $250 and up to 90 days imprisonment.  The assistant secretary of labor can also institute civil proceedings, with fines up to $500, attorneys fees and court costs to the prevailing party.
Maine Title 5 §4572 public or private employers It is unlawful for public or private employers of one or more employees to discharge, threaten or discriminate against an employee who in good faith reports a violation or suspected violation of a state, federal or local law or regulation or a practice that endangers the health or safety of the employee, others or a public body; or who is asked to participate in an investigation, court proceeding or inquiry; or who in good faith refuses to carry out an order that puts the employee or others at risk.  Employees must first bring the violation to the attention of a supervisor and allow reasonable time for correction.  Aggrieved employees may file a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission for violations and retain remedies available under common law.
Maryland none    
Massachusetts Ch. 149 §85 any employer An employer may not retaliate against employees who report violation of law or risks to public health, safety or the environment.  Retaliation includes discharge, suspension, demotion, or other adverse action taken in terms or conditions of employment. 
Michigan §15.361 et seq. and case law all employers Employers cannot discharge or cause the constructive discharge or discriminate against an employee because the employee or a person acting on behalf of the employee reports or is about to report a violation of local, state or federal law to a public body or is requested by a public body to take part in an investigation, hearing, inquiry or court action.  Protections do not apply if the employee knows the report to be false.
Minnesota §181-931 et seq. public and private employers Public and private employers cannot discharge, discipline, threaten, discriminate against or penalize an employee regarding compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment because the employee in good faith reports a violation or suspected violation of a state or federal law or rule or refuses to participate in any activity that the employee in good faith believes to be a violation of a state or federal law or rule.  Remedies include civil action for damages, costs and attorneys fees.  Employees are not protected for knowingly making a false statement.  A discharged employee must request within five days a written explanation of the reason for their discharge.  An employer that fails to notify a discharged employee of the true reason for their discharge within five working days of the employees request will be fined $25 per day, up to $750 per injured employee.  Any notice provided to an employee cannot be the subject of an action for libel, slander or defamation brought by the employee against the employer.
Mississippi none    
Missouri §105.055 state employees State agencies cannot take disciplinary action against an employee for disclosing alleged prohibited activity under investigation or for disclosing information which the employee reasonably believes to be a violation of law or rule, mismanagement, waste of funds, abuse of authority or a specific and substantial danger to public health or safety.  Protections do not apply if the employees know the disclosure to be false or if it was made in reckless disregard for the truth.
Montana none    
Nebraska §§48-1102 & 48-1114 private employers, state employees and unions It is unlawful for an employer with 15 or more employees, or a union or employment agency to discriminate against a person who has opposed any practice or refused to carry out an action that is a violation of state or federal law. 
Nevada none    
New Hampshire §359-B4 public and private employers Employers cannot discharge, threaten or discriminate against an employee regarding compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment because the employee in good faith reports what they believe to be a violation or state, federal or local law or rule, or if the employee participates in an investigation, hearing or inquiry conducted by a governmental agency, or for refusing to execute a directive which is a violation of rule or law.  The employee is only protected if they first report the allegation to a supervisor and allow time for correction, unless the employee has reason to believe the violation will not be corrected promptly.  An aggrieved employee must use available grievance procedures and then may obtain a hearing with the commissioner of labor who may order reinstatement, back-pay and benefits and injunctive relief.  Aggrieved employees may also pursue relief through union procedures or at common law.
New Jersey §34:19-3 et seq. and case law public and private employers The Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) prohibits a public or private employer from taking retaliatory action against an employee who discloses or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or public body an activity, policy or practice that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of a law or rule; or provides information or testimony to a public body investigating a violation; or objects to or refuses to participate in an activity, policy or practice that the employee reasonably believes is a violation of law, fraudulent or criminal, or is incompatible with a clear mandate of public policy related to health, safety, welfare or protection of the environment.  The protection does not apply unless the employee has given written notice of the violation to a supervisor and has given reasonable time for correction, except if the employee is reasonably certain the supervisor already knows about the violation or if the employee reasonably fears physical harm and the situation is an emergency.  An employee asserting a CEPA claim must establish that they had an objectively reasonable belief that the employer’s conduct was illegal or violated public policy, rather than errors in judgment by the employer.
New Mexico none    
New York Labor Law §740 & Civil Service Law §75-b public and private employers Public and private employers cannot discipline or take retaliatory action against employees who disclose or threaten to disclose activities, policies or practices that violate laws or regulations or threaten public health or safety.  The protections extend to public employees who disclose to a governmental body information that they reasonably believe to be an improper governmental action.  Aggrieved employees can sue for reinstatement, back-pay and benefits and may be entitled to courts costs and attorney fees.  A prevailing employer may recover court costs and attorney fees if the suit is not based on law or fact.
North Carolina none    
North Dakota §34-06-20 private employers A private employer may not discharge, discipline, threaten, discriminate or penalize an employee with regards to compensation, work conditions, location or privileges of employment because the person, or a person acting on their behalf, in good faith reported a violation or suspected violation of a state or federal rule or law, or refused an order to perform an act that the employee believes to be illegal.  Within 90 days of alleged discrimination, an aggrieved employee may bring a civil suit against the employer and may recover injunctive relief, actual damages and attorneys fees.  A willful violation of this law is a criminal infraction punishable by a maximum $500 fine.
Ohio §4113.52(A)(1) et seq. and §124.341 private and public employers An employer cannot discipline or retaliate against an employee making a report of a violation of state, federal or local law or rule.  The employee must notify their supervisor by written report with sufficient detail to describe the violation.  The employer must make a good faith effort to correct the violation within 24 hours or the employee may notify the prosecuting authority, a peace officer or an appropriate public agency or official.  Employees can be disciplined for failure to make a good faith effort to ascertain the accuracy of information reported.  A separate law provides that state employees cannot be disciplined or retaliated against for reporting a violation of state or federal statute or rule or a misuse of public resources.  Employees may be disciplined for reporting false information.  An aggrieved employee’s sole and exclusive remedy is to file an appeal with the state personnel board of review within 30 days after alleged discriminatory action.
Oklahoma Title 74 §840-2.5 state employees State employees are protected from discipline when they disclose public information or for reporting violations of state or federal law or policy, mismanagement, gross waste of public funds, danger to public health or safety; or discuss operations and functions of government agencies with the governor or the legislature.  Employees are not protected if they knowingly or recklessly disseminate false or confidential information.
Oregon §659.505 private and public employees Public employers cannot prohibit employees from reporting or punish employees who reasonably report criminal activity or gross waste of public funds.  It is unlawful for any employer to demote, suspend or discharge an employee who in good faith reported criminal activity, aided in a criminal investigation or has brought a civil suit against the employer.
Pennsylvania §1421 et seq. public employers A public employer cannot discharge, threaten, discriminate or retaliate against an employee who makes a good faith report to the employer or appropriate agency of waste or wrongdoing, including a violation of a federal, state or local law or regulation, or codes of conduct or ethics designed to protect the public interest; or for participating in an investigation, hearing or court action.  An aggrieved employee may file a civil action for injunctive relief and damages within 180 days of the alleged discrimination.  Employers may be fined up to $500 for violations.
Rhode Island §28-50-4 public and private employers Public and private employers cannot discharge, threaten or discriminate against an employee for reporting to a public body a violation of law or regulation or for participating in an investigation, hearing, inquiry or court action.  An aggrieved employee has three years after an alleged violation to file an action for relief or damages.
South Carolina §8-27-10 et seq. government employers Government employers cannot discharge, suspend, demote, decrease the compensation, discipline or threaten employees who report violation or state or federal laws or rules; or expose criminal activity, corruption, waste, fraud or gross negligence; or who testify in a trial or hearing regarding those matters.  Employees who make an unfounded allegation without good faith may be discharged.  If an employee’s actions in reporting results in a saving of public funds, the reporting employee is entitled to 25% of the estimated savings up to $2,000.  If an employee is dismissed within one year after having reported alleged wrongdoing, the employee may file suit after having exhausted all administrative remedies.  Recoverable damages include lost wages, court costs and reasonable attorney fees, along with reinstatement.
South Dakota none    
Tennessee S.B. 682 (2010) public and private employees Relates to employees employers; clarifies that the civil cause of action for the retaliatory discharge of an employee for reporting illegal activities applies to state employees, private employees, and certain persons paid by the federal government.
Texas none    
Utah §67-21-1 et seq. public employees Employees of the state or political subdivisions cannot be discharged, threatened, disciplined or discriminated against for reporting to a public body the existence or suspected existence of waste of public funds, property or manpower; or for a violation or suspected violation of state or federal law; or for refusing to comply with a directive the employee reasonably believes to be illegal.  Employees are not protected if they fail to give written notice of the violation to the employer, unless they reasonably believe notice to be futile; fail to comply with administrative reporting procedures; or make the report knowing that it is malicious, false or frivolous.  Aggrieved employees may file suit within 180 days after the alleged discriminatory action and can seek reinstatement, back-pay, benefits, court costs and attorney fees.  Violating employers can be fined up to $500.
Vermont none    
Virginia none    
Washington §§ 42.40.020, 42.40.030 and 42.40.050 state employees State governmental employees who provide information to state auditors about improper governmental action and suffer retaliation as a result can appeal to the superior court for a review of the alleged retaliation, without first exhausting administrative remedies.  Employees must act in good faith and try to first give the information to the agency head before reporting it.  State officials who retaliate can be held personally liable, with a fine of up to $3,000, a suspension of up to 30 days and at a minimum have a letter of reprimand placed in their personnel file.
West Virginia §6C-1-3 et seq. state employers State government employers are prohibited from discharging, threatening, discriminating or retaliating against employees by changing an employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges because of an actual or planned good faith report of wrongdoing made to the employer or to a public body; or against employees who participate in investigations, hearings, inquiries or trials involving wrongdoing or waste.  Aggrieved employees may within 180 days of the alleged discrimination sue their employer for injunctive relief and damages, including reinstatement, back-pay and benefits, court costs, witness fees and attorney fees.  Employers and public officials who violate this law will be punished by a civil fine of up to $500.  Unelected officials may be suspended from public service for up to six months.
Wisconsin none    
Wyoming none    

Source: Guide to Employment Law and Regulation, Thomson Group/West Group, 2007, updated November 2010.


 

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