Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Whistle Blower Laws Protecting Pennsylvania Employees of Private Companies

DO WHISTLE BLOWER LAWS PROTECT ME IF I COMPLAIN ABOUT IMPROPER BUSINESS PRACTICES IN PENNSYLVANIA?

If you are employed by the United States Government, or by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you may not be fired in retaliation for complaining about potentially corrupt governmental practices.

However, if you are employed by a private company that is not publicly traded, you may lawfully be fired in retaliation for complaining to management about corrupt, immoral, fraudulent, criminal or unethical business practices.

Employees of publicly traded companies have some protection if they identify business practices intended to defraud shareholders under Sarbanes-Oxley ("SOX").

For a comprehensive discussion of the above principles, Click Here.

In addition to the protections offered to government employees, and those contained within SOX, there is only one other prominent whistle blower law that may be utilized to protect Pennsylvania employees of private companies who complain about their employer's business practices.  OSHA.

If you complain about legitimately dangerous or hazardous work conditions and are fired/demoted in retaliation for making such a complaint, OSHA has an anti-retaliation provision that may be utilized to hold your employer liable for any wage loss you suffer as a result of the retaliatory action.

Beyond the exceptions to the "at will" employment doctrine described above, it is safest to assume that you may lawfully be terminated if you complain about business practices that you consider to be unethical, illegal, corrupt or fraudulent.  Thus, you should understand that if you make such a complaint you may be fired, and will not have recourse for wrongful termination.

CAN I GET UNEMPLOYMENT IN PENNSYLVANIA IF I AM FIRED FOR BEING A WHISTLE BLOWER?

If you are fired for making such a complaint, you will likely be eligible for Unemployment Compensation, as the making of such complaint should not be deemed "willful misconduct" under Pennsylvania Unemployment law.

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