Tennessee workers are covered by various federal laws that protect them from discrimination and ensure that they are treated and paid fairly. Whistleblowing, which in legal terms means reporting an employer for some violation of the law or of safety standards, is protected as well. This means that if an employee fires or retaliates against an employee who blew the whistle, the employer is breaking the law, and the employee could bring a legal case against the employer. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is one of the laws that protects corporate whistleblowers.
Under SOX, a whistleblower who is retaliated against could receive damages including back pay, reinstatement, attorney’s fees and special damages. The latter could include mental anguish, damaged reputation, personal humiliation or other harm that is not financial. Back pay is offset by earnings the whistleblower received in the interim, but it includes salary increases that the employee would have obtained if the retaliation had not occurred.
In some situations it might not be feasible for a whistleblower to be reinstated; for example, when an abusive situation occurred at work prior to the whistleblower’s termination. Reinstatement is preferred, but when it is not feasible, front pay could be available as an alternative. SOX does not allow awards of punitive damages, but a whistleblower could choose to take the claim to federal court. Then other claims could be added, and punitive damages could be recovered.
Federal employment laws protect workers against discrimination and retaliation, ensures family and medical leave and fair pay. Sometimes a worker might be unsure if an action on the part of his or her employer is within the employer’s rights. Bringing a claim against an employer without first consulting with an attorney could undermine an employee’s chances of a successful outcome.