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Whistleblowers have legal protection from retaliation at work

Fear of retaliation, such as job loss, often prevents workers in Connecticut from coming forward with their concerns about safety or potentially illegal conduct. Despite the personal difficulty that people might feel about coming forward with allegations, 22 different laws establish whistleblower protection in different industries, such as transportation, financial and energy production. An official at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that whistleblowers benefit the public because their testimony can expose harmful practices.

Congress has recognized the social importance of whistleblowers since 1989 when it defined the standard of proof in such cases. Employees who bring forward allegations typically only need to show clear and convincing evidence to prove their cases in court.

OSHA recently sought to improve its ability to process whistleblower complaints by soliciting input from various industry stakeholders. Comments from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, American Trucking Associations and the Teamsters union revealed that many workers might not realize that they can file a complaint with OSHA. The safety agency also acknowledged its problem with frivolous complaints that burden the system and take time away from legitimate complaints.

A person concerned about misconduct by an employer or a hazardous workplace may wish to consult an attorney before filing a complaint. An attorney may be able to evaluate the case and offer insights about legal protection available for a worker within a specific industry after coming forward with a complaint. An attorney might assist the person with filing a complaint with a state or federal agency. If that action produces negative consequences at work, then the attorney may inform the employer about the laws protecting the whistleblower from retaliation. When necessary, an attorney might file a lawsuit against an employer to recover damages that resulted from job termination, a pay cut or demotion.

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