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  Oracle Tips by Burleson

Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblowerlaws make it illegal for employers to alter the employment status of an employee or otherwise discriminate against one who has performed a legal act on behalf of the employer or others for certain purposes. For example, if an employee has been subpoenaed by a government agency to testify against the employer, it is unlawful for the employer to retaliate against the employee with actions such as reassignments, demotions, lowering their compensation, terminations, or any other discriminatory practice that is employment-related.

These whistleblower laws exist at both the Federal and State levels. Federal whistleblower laws are administered by the Department of Labor and complaints are filed either with the Occupational Safety and Health Administrationor with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionin some instances.

The statute of limitations in most cases for retaliatory claims related to whistle-blowing is six years. Plaintiffs should be careful though not to delay notification of government agencies since some Federal laws have statute of limitations as short as 30 days from the day of the retaliatory action.

Employees who are the victims of retaliatory termination may be entitled to reinstatement in their former job, twice the back pay plus interest, damages due to discrimination, and attorney costs.

On the other hand, nobody likes a snitch, and many difficult-to-manage IT programmers may engage in unjustified whistle-blowing just to make a manager’s life miserable.  In these cases, managers are still free to fire them, but they must be sure the termination is in response to a clear violation of company policy.  There is more than one way to fire an employee, and managers can be quite creative in finding ways to eliminate the problem IT professionals.

Employees are aware that many managers are lenient and allow them to get away with behavior that violates company policyin some way. It does not matter how small the violation is. Employees can be fired for any violation such as off-color jokes, not locking their desktop computer when they are away from their cubicle, missing too many project target dates, swearing in the office and so forth. It is quite easy to document these actions and send the employee packing.

Besides the Federal and State laws, the courts also rely on some theories that restrict the firing of at-willemployees including implied contract, public policy, and bad faith limitation. 

The above book excerpt is from:

You're Fired! Firing Computer Professionals

The IT manager Guide for Terminating "With Cause"

ISBN 0-9744486-4-8

Robert Papaj

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