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Whistleblower laws may protect workers

Wisconsin employees who have made certain reports about an employer's activities may be protected by state and federal law. The types of protection that are available are based on the type of claim that was made, the employer's identification, state law and case law. Additionally, contract or tort causes of action may be available for an employee who was retaliated against.

Not all complaints are protected under whistleblower laws. Whistleblower laws are designed to protect employees who help alert governmental agencies when an employer's actions are unhealthy, illegal or violate certain public policies. To bring forth a successful whistleblower claim, the victim must show that he or she: 

  • is covered under a specific statute or common law
  • the employer is covered under this specific statute or common law
  • the victim performed whistleblower activity
  • the employer knew that the victim engaged in this activity, and
  • the employer retaliated against the victim because of this activity.
  • the reason for an adverse may be partly based on whistleblower activity and some other valid reason.
  • the employee would not have been subjected to claimed adverse action had s/he filed a whistleblower claim.

Retaliation consists of the employee being terminated or discriminated against in terms of his or her compensation, conditions or privileges of employment.

The victim has the burden of showing that he or she would not have been subjected to the retaliatory action if he or she had not engaged in the protected whistleblower conduct. The employee may be able to provide evidence of this discrimination by showing that the employer was aware of the conduct, activities that occurred after the whistleblower activity and specific comments the employer made.

Many whistleblower laws have a short statute of limitations, some as low as 30 days. In general, the period begins on the date that the employee learns that retaliation will be forthcoming.

Source: Whistleblowers.org, "Know Your Rights FAQ", July 18, 2014

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