Whistleblower Protection

Whistleblower Protection

A “whistleblower” is an employee who complains to his or her employer or an appropriate government agency alleging that his or her employer is doing something illegal.  Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and federal statutes all protect whistleblowers.  Contact Muller Law to see if these statutes apply to you.

Rhode Island Whistleblowers’ Protection Act:

§ 28-50-2. Definitions

As used in this chapter:

(1) “Employee” means a person employed by any employer, and shall include, but not be limited to, at-will employees, contract employees and independent contractors.

(2) “Employer” means any person, partnership, association, sole proprietorship, corporation or other business entity, including any department, agency, commission, committee, board, council, bureau, or authority or any subdivision thereof in state or municipal government. One shall employ another if services are performed for wages or under any contract of hire, written or oral, express or implied.

(3) “Person” means an individual, sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, association, or any other legal entity.

(4) “Public body” means all of the following:

(i) A state officer, employee, agency, department, division, bureau, board, commission, council, authority, or other body in the executive branch of state government.

(ii) An agency, board, commission, council, member, or employee of the legislative branch of state government.

(iii) A county, city, town, or regional governing body, a council, school district, or a board, department, commission, agency, or any member or employee of the entity.

(iv) Any other body which is created by state or local authority or which is primarily funded by or through state or local authority, or any member or employee of that body.

(v) A law enforcement agency or any member or employee of a law enforcement agency.

(vi) The judiciary and any member or employee of the judiciary.

(vii) Any federal agency.

(5) “Supervisor” means any individual to whom an employer has given the authority to direct and control the work performance of the affected employee or any individual who has the authority to take corrective action regarding the violation of a law, rule or regulation about which the employee complains.

§ 28-50-3. Protection

An employer shall not discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate against an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment:

(1) Because the employee, or a person acting on behalf of the employee, reports or is about to report to a public body, verbally or in writing, a violation which the employee knows or reasonably believes has occurred or is about to occur, of a law or regulation or rule promulgated under the law of this state, a political subdivision of this state, or the United States, unless the employee knows or has reason to know that the report is false, or

(2) Because an employee is requested by a public body to participate in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry held by that public body, or a court action, or

(3) Because an employee refuses to violate or assist in violating federal, state or local law, rule or regulation, or

(4) Because the employee reports verbally or in writing to the employer or to the employee’s supervisor a violation, which the employee knows or reasonably believes has occurred or is about to occur, of a law or regulation or rule promulgated under the laws of this state, a political subdivision of this state, or the United States, unless the employee knows or has reason to know that the report is false. Provided, that if the report is verbally made, the employee must establish by clear and convincing evidence that the report was made.

§ 28-50-4. Relief and damages

(a) A person who alleges a violation of this act may bring a civil action for appropriate injunctive relief, or actual damages, or both within three (3) years after the occurrence of the alleged violation of this chapter.

(b) An action commenced pursuant to subsection(a) of this section may be brought in the superior court for the county where the alleged violation occurred, the county where the complainant resides, or the county where the person against whom the civil complaint is filed resides or has their principal place of business.

(c) As used in subsection (a) of this section, “damages” means damages for injury or loss caused by each violation of this chapter.

(d) An employee shall show by clear and convincing evidence that he or she or a person acting on his or her behalf was about to report to a public body, verbally or in writing, a violation, which the employee knew or reasonably believed had occurred or was about to occur, of a law of this state, a political subdivision of this state, or the United States.

§ 28-50-5. Reinstatement

A court, in rendering a judgment in an action brought under this act, shall order, as the court considers appropriate, reinstatement of the employee, the payment of back wages, full reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights, actual damages, or any combination of these remedies. A court may also award the complainant all or a portion of the costs of litigation, including attorneys’ fees if the court determines that the award is appropriate.

§ 28-50-6. Collective bargaining

This chapter shall not be construed to diminish or impair the rights of a person under any collective bargaining agreement.

§ 28-50-7. Exemption

This chapter shall not be construed to require an employer to compensate an employee for participation in an investigation, hearing or inquiry held by a public body in accordance with ß 28-50-3.

§ 28-50-8. Notices posted

An employer shall post notices and use other appropriate means to keep his or her employees informed of their protections and obligations under this chapter.