The state of North Carolina offers whistleblower protections to workers who report criminal activity happening at their workplaces. That is to say, if you witness unethical, dangerous, unsavory or unlawful actions happening at your work, you don't have to fear being retaliated against.
If retaliation does occur -- such as the loss of your job, lost opportunity, lost income or other adverse actions against you -- while you're employed in a private or public occupation, you can file a lawsuit against your employer.
What do North Carolina whistleblower laws prohibit?
North Carolina law specifically prohibits employers from suspending, demoting, discharging or taking other adverse actions against employees and representatives who:
- Initiate an action against an employer
- Testify on behalf of a workers' compensation matter
- Testify in an OSHA complaint
- Testify in a wage or hours violation complaint
- Files a claim against the employer
What remedies can whistleblowers receive?
Employees can file a complaint against the Commission of Labor regarding retaliation for being a whistleblower. It's important to file the complaint within 180 days of the retaliation because after 180 days, the employee needs to petition for a right-to-sue letter. After getting the right to sue letter, the employee will receive 90 days to file the claim.
In a lawsuit for whistleblower retaliation, employees can seek reinstatement, injunctive relief, seniority rights, back pay, full fringe benefits, other benefits and attorneys' fees. In instances where a willful violation of whistleblower rights occurred, the employee may be able to receive an award of treble damages.
Federal whistleblower laws
In addition to state laws that provide whistleblower protections, employees may receive protection from whistleblower retaliation under federal laws if they work for larger companies. In some cases, employees who have been retaliated against may only be able to file suit under state laws, but if it is a larger company, the employee may be able to incorporate federal laws into their suits.
If you were retaliated against because you were a whistleblower, you don't have to take the loss of your job or other forms of retaliation on the chin. You may be able to fight back and assert your legal rights in court.