Federal and state whistleblower laws have been enacted to encourage employees to report, testify about, and stop employers’ activities that are illegal, fraudulent, a danger to public health and safety, and/or violate public policy. For example, there are laws protecting environmental whistleblowers, federal employee whistleblowers, corporate whistleblowers complaining about fraud in publicly traded companies, trucking whistleblowers, food safety work whistleblowers, medical whistleblowers, airline whistleblowers, and military whistleblowers, among others. These laws protect whistleblowers from unlawful retaliation. Generally, the elements of a whistleblower claim require proof that the employee and the employer are covered under a particular federal or state law protecting whistleblowers, the employee engaged in protected whistleblower activity, the employer knew that the employee engaged in the activity, and the employer was motivated by that knowledge when it took an adverse action against the employee. Under many federal laws, an employee’s complaint to a government agency is protected activity. Some state laws also protect employees who complain to a state or federal agency, while others require the employee to tell their employer about the complaint first to give the employer an opportunity to fix the concern. The time for filing a claim under many whistleblower protections begins to run when an employee learns she is being or will be retaliated against, even if the retaliation continues.
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