Zachary Zawarski is an employment and labor law attorney located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. One of Zachary Zawarski’s main practice areas is in the area of wrongful terminations.
Many people believe that they have a “whistleblower” or “retaliation” case when they are terminated for voicing their opinions about a wrongful action by their employer. Unfortunately, if you complain to the company about an unethical or wrongful practice and you are then terminated, you may not have a legitimate whistleblower case due to the “at-will employment doctrine.”
Protection Applies Only To Public Employers Or Private Employers Receiving Public Funding
The first thing to understand is that whistleblower law protection in Pennsylvania does not extend to private employees. Pennsylvania’s whistleblower law only applies to public employees. However, there is an exception to that.
If you work for a private employer, they may fall within the scope of Pennsylvania’s Whistleblower Law, 43 P.S. § 1421, et seq., if they were created by or receive funding from a public body. It is also important to note that merely because a company performs contracts for a public body does not mean that they automatically fall within the scope of Pennsylvania’s Whistleblower Law.
They key is that the employer receives funding from a public body and the amount of the funding can be in any amount. A “public body” is defined as any body which is created by the Commonwealth or political subdivision or which is funded in any amount by or through the Commonwealth or political subdivision or is a member or employee of that body.
The Whistleblower Law providesthat no employer may discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee because the employee makes a good faith report or is about to report, verbally or in writing, to the employer or appropriate authority an instance of wrongdoing or waste. 43 P.S. § 1423(a).
Employee Must Complain About Waste or Wrongdoing
Pennsylvania’s Whistleblower Law was designed to protect employees who complain bout wrongdoing or waste of government funds. In order to fall within the scope of the law, the employee must either complain about abuse of government funding or wrongdoing.
Wrongdoing also has a very precise definition. It does not being wrongdoing in every sense of the word, but the wrongdoing must be must be a violation of a federal or state statute or regulation, or of a municipal ordinance or a code of conduct or ethics designed to protect the interests of the public or the employer, and which is not of a merely technical or minimal nature. Quite simply, in order to be protected under PA’s whistleblower law, the employee must complain that a specific violation of an existing law.
Employee Must Report or About to Report Waste or Wrongdoing
As mentioned previously, Pennsylvania’s Whistleblower Law does not protect employees who complain to their employer privately. The employee must make a good faith report or must intend to make a good faith report to the appropriate authority. In other words, the person who makes the report must have a reasonable basis for believing that waste or wrongdoing is occurring and the report must be made without consideration of personal gain.
Filing a Lawsuit
Anyone who believes they were harmed in violation of Pennsylvania’s Whistleblower Law must file a lawsuit within 180 days. If a case is successful, an employee’s remedies may include reinstatement of employment, payment of back wages, reinstatement of fringe benefits, and any other actual damages, including attorneyâs fees. If you believe you have a whistleblower case, please call me at (484) 362-9286 for a free case evaluation.