What Federal Laws Protect Environmental Whistleblowers?
Seven major federal environmental laws (Clean Air, Toxic Substances, Clean Water, Atomic Energy, Solid Waste, Safe Drinking Water and Superfund) have special provisions protecting employee whistleblowers.
Who Is Protected?
Almost any private sector or federal employee can be protected.
Who Can File a Complaint?
Any employee who believes he or she has been discriminated against in retaliation for "blowing the whistle" on a safety problem or environmental violation, or for engaging in other activity protected under the law.
What is Illegal Discrimination?
Adverse changes to the whistleblower's terms and conditions of employment are prohibited. This includes a wide range of actions from reprimands to terminations and blacklisting.
Where Should I File a Complaint?
These laws are administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Complaints must be filed in writing and should be mailed to:
U.S. Department of Labor
Office of the Assistant Secretary
Occupational Safety and Health Administration - Room: S2315
200 Constitution Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20210
What Are the Statutes Of Limitations?
A Complaint under six of the environmental statutes must be filed with the DOL in writing within 30 days of the time an employees learns that he or she will be, or has been, subjected to discrimination, harassment or retaliation.
Do Other Laws Protect Whistleblowers?
Many states have enacted laws to protect whistleblowers. Most of these laws have a longer statue of limitations and other benefits unavailable under federal law.
The National Whistleblower Center, as a matter of public service, has published a compilation of all Federal laws and regulations protecting whistleblowers. This book is available on the National Whistleblower Centers' publication site as a free download for whistleblowers and their political and legal advocates. Donations are recommended, and commercial users are required to purchase the book for $120.
What remedies are available to employees under the environmental whistleblower statutes?
Employees who prevail are entitled to:
- Backpay with interest
- A complete “make whole” remedy (including restoration of seniority/sick leave, etc)
- Compensatory damages (for emotional distress and loss of professional reputation)
- Attorneys’ fees and costs
- Affirmative Relief” (such as requiring a letter of apology and formal posting of the decision)