State Whistleblower Laws
Although there are federal regulations put in place by the IRS and other organizations to encourage whistleblowers to come forward, some restrictions and acts are specific to states.
The False Claims Act has been enacted in 27 states, as well as the District of Columbia. It was put in place to protect the United States government against untrue claims. The act encourages whistleblowers to come forward and report fraud by providing incentives by offering 15-25% of any award that comes from a lawsuit made possible by those who were willing to provide information.
State Employees: Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Washington, and West Virginia have laws that restrict state employers’ ability to retaliate against their employees who decide to become whistleblowers. This means they cannot be fired simply for coming forward about wrongdoing within their workplace. Indiana even protects employees against being unwillingly transferred after becoming whistleblowers.
Public Employers: Alaska, Delaware, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Utah have statutes that protect public employees from retaliation against their employers after coming forward about legal and ethical issues. Alaska’s regulation states that employers can be liable for fines of up to $10,000 for breaking the law. In Pennsylvania, however, employers can only be fined up to $500 for violating the protective act.
Private and Private Employers: Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Tennessee protect both private and public employees from retaliation. They encourage employees to come forward and fight corruption and other illegal activity within their workplace.
All Employers: California, Louisiana, and Massachusetts have statutes that protect all employees from retaliation resulting from becoming a whistleblower.
Each state has slightly different regulations for whistleblowers and employers. Click on your state below and find out what protections you have as a whistleblower.
Alabama operates under the State Employees Protection Act that protects state employees from retaliation by their employers after reporting illegal activity in the workplace. Whistleblowers also cannot be demoted, transferred, or have their wages cut due to coming forward.
Alaska protects public employees from retaliation. Employers cannot threaten or discriminate against public employees who are involved in court actions or other legal matters of public concern involving the company. Employers can face up to $10,000 in fines for violating these regulations. Employees are also protected from being fired in retaliation of their whistleblowing actions.
Arizona’s whistleblower protection focuses on the personnel area of whistleblower protection. Employees who are in charge of personnel issues are not allowed to retaliate against employees who expose wrongdoing within the company. This protects public and private employees.
In Arkansas, employers are now allowed to terminate employees for any and all reasons, but they also do not explicitly protect employees against retaliation. Employees are legally protected against discrimination within the workplace as well. Whistleblower complaints must be filed within three years of the illegal action taking place.
California protects all employees from retaliation by their employers in the forms of rules or regulations, after reporting wrongdoing to a government agency or law enforcement. However, in order to be legally protected upon facing retaliation in the workplace, the actions must be reported to the State Division of Labor Standards Enforcement within 90 days of occurrence.
Colorado state law protects state employees from retaliation by their employers. If employees wish to report issues such as waste of public funds, agency mismanagement or abuse of authority, they cannot be unlawfully discharged from their position.
Public and private employees are protected in Connecticut from discharge or other penalties within the workplace after reporting illegal or unethical activity. However, if employees are knowingly making false claims, they lose their protection. Suits against employers for retaliatory actions must be filed within 90 days of the action. Reports are made to the Attorney General.
Delaware’s state laws for whistleblowers protect public employees from retaliation including discharge and discrimination, unless they are purposely making false reports. Employees report wrongdoing within the workplace to the Office of the Auditor of Accounts. They have 90 days to take action against illegal discrimination within the workplace.
Public and private employees are protected in Florida from retaliation in the form of discharge, discipline, or adverse personnel action. Employees will receive protection for disclosing information to a government agency about any sort of activity or policy or practice that is illegal and occurring within the workplace. If they are coming forward honestly, and in discord with an activity that provides a substantial risk to the public’s health, safety or welfare, then they will be protected from retaliation.
Georgia’s state regulations heavily protect employees from discrimination motivated by disability or gender. Public employees who become whistleblowers and then face retaliatory action have three years to report the action. Disability discrimination must be reported within 180 days. Gender discrimination must be reported within one year.
Hawaii protects private and public employees from threats, discrimination and discharge as forms of retaliation following a whistleblowing action. Employers may be fined up to $500 per violation for these actions, but the actions must be reported within 90 days. Stronger protections may be reached for collective bargaining agreements.
Employees in Idaho cannot be fired for participating in, initiating, or testifying in an investigation against their employers. They cannot legally experience discrimination within their workplace following any of these actions. Claims of discrimination may be filed within the Idaho Commission on Human Rights within one year of occurrence. Other actions may be reported within two years of occurrence.
Public employees in Illinois cannot be disciplined for reporting actions within their workplace that they reasonably believe violate rules or laws, or demonstrate misuse of funds or abuse of authority. Names of employees legally cannot be reported without their consent.
In Indiana, it is illegal to deny wages or benefits, demote, transfer, reassign or demote a state employee for reporting wrongdoing within their workplace. Employees must first report the actions they witness to their supervisors, but if nothing is done after a reasonable amount of time then the employee can choose to go public with their findings.
State employees in Iowa are protected from retaliation if they choose to come forward about mismanagement, violation of a rule or law, misuse of funds, abuse of authority, or danger to public health and safety. They cannot be retaliated against for reporting such information to a political official or member of the General Assembly.
State employees in Kansas are protected against retaliation for reporting illegal actions to members of the legislature. They do not have to go to their supervisors first, but they do need to notify their supervisors about any legislative requests and the nature of the testimony they plan to give. They can be disciplined for providing false testimony.
In Kentucky, state employees cannot be retaliated against for reporting suspected illegal activity to state officials or agencies, the General Assembly, the Legislative Research Commission, judicial branch or law enforcement agencies. They do not have to go to their employer prior to making reports. Employees cannot be disciplined for reporting confidential or false information to agencies.
In Louisiana, any employee who is in good faith reporting illegal activity within their workplace is protected from retaliation by their employers. Disregard for this law can result in $250 in fines and up to 90 days in prison. Aggrieved employees can receive triple damages for such retaliatory actions against them.
Public and private employees in Maine are protected from retaliation by their employers for reporting violations of state or federal laws. Before employees report this activity outside of their workplace, they must first report it to supervisors and allow ample time for them to fix the issue. The Maine Human Rights Commission is where employees can report any sort of retaliatory actions they experience.
Maryland protects employees in different sectors of the employment spectrum against retaliation. For Maryland public employees, claims must be filed to the Secretary within 6 months for wrongful retaliatory actions. State employees must file reports within one year. Other types of employees have three years to file reports.
Massachusetts has a blanket protection for all types of employees against retaliation from their employers. This includes firing, suspension or demotion. Employees have the right to report any violation of a federal or state law, or any action that could be of risk to the health and safety of the public, that is happening in the workplace.
Michigan protects employees of all employers from retaliation due to whistleblowing activity. Employees cannot be discriminated against or discharged for reporting illegal activity within their workplace. If the employee knows they are reporting false information, they lose their legal protection from their employers.
Public and private employees in Minnesota are protected from retaliation by their employers for reporting wrongdoing or refusing to participate in illegal activity on behalf of the company. If an employee is discharged and they feel it is a form of retaliation, they must receive a written explanation for their discharge within five days of its occurrence. If employers fail to do this, they will face a fine of $25 per day of denying the truth and $750 per injured employee.
Mississippi law protects “vulnerable adults” from wrongful termination and other retaliation actions. Employees who have reason to believe that a patient or resident has been the victim of neglect, abuse or exploitation are required to report the violation. They cannot be discharged or discriminated against for reporting these suspicions. Employees cannot be retaliated against for refusing to participate in illegal acts either.
State employees in Missouri are protected from retaliation if they report any illegal activity, misuse of funds, mismanagement, abuse of power, or a risk to public health and safety. However, employees lose this protection if they knowingly make false reports about their place of employment.
In Montana, the Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act protects employees from wrongful discharge as a form of retaliation for refusing to violate public policy. An employee has 90 days to attempt to fix the problem within the company. If this is ineffective, then they can file a lawsuit, which must be filed within one year of action.
In Nebraska, employers with more than 15 employees and unions are not allowed to discriminate against employees who oppose actions or refuse to carry out actions that violate state or federal laws.
Employees in Nevada cannot be discriminated against or discharged for opposing unlawful or discriminatory actions within their workplace. They also cannot be discriminated against or discharged for making a charge, assisting, testifying, or participating in an investigation concerning employment discrimination.
Public and private employers in New Hampshire cannot threaten, discharge or discriminate against employees who report unlawful activities within their workplace. Employees must first report activities to a supervisor and allow for a reasonable amount of time for correction in order to be protected. If nothing is done after a reasonable amount of time, they may then report the action to outside of the company.
In New Jersey, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act protects public and private employees from retaliation by their employers, after reporting or threatening to report unlawful activity within the workplace, or refusing to participate in unlawful activity. The employee must first submit a written report to their supervisor and allow a reasonable amount of time for corrections to be made before reporting the activity to law enforcement or other agencies.
New Mexico’s Human Rights Act protects employees from discharge, discrimination and other forms of retaliation at the hands of their employers. The act also protects employees from discrimination related to race, age, religion, gender, physical or mental disabilities and sexual orientation. General whistleblowing reports must be filed within four years of the action taking place. Reports of discrimination must be filed within 300 days of the retaliatory action.
In New York, public and private employers cannot retaliate against employees for reporting unlawful activities, or activities that threaten public health and safety. Public employees that disclose to a governmental body something that they reasonably believe to be an improper government action are also protected against retaliation under state regulations.
In North Carolina, employees are protected under the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act. They cannot be discriminated or retaliated against for filing complaints about law and policy violations within the workplace, including those of discrimination toward themselves and other employees. An employee cannot be discriminated against for testifying in a hearing involving their employer. Anti-retaliation claims must be filed with the North Carolina Department of Labor within 180 days of the action.
In North Dakota, private employers cannot discharge, discriminate against, threaten or discipline an employee for reporting unlawful actions and violations of state or federal laws within the workplace. If an employee suffers discrimination or retaliation, they have 90 days to bring a civil suit against their employer. The employer can be fined up to $500 for their illegal retaliation actions.
Private and public employers in Ohio are not allowed to discriminate or retaliate against employees who choose to report violations of state, federal or local regulations. Employees must first report the issue to their supervisor in written detail. At that point, the employer has 24 hours to make some sort of effort to correct the violation. After that point, the employee is free to report the violation to the authorities.
State employees in Oklahoma cannot be disciplined for reporting violations of federal or state laws and regulations, mismanagement, misuse of funds, and danger to public health or safety. Employees lose their protection for spreading false information, or recklessly sharing confidential information.
Public Oregon employers are not allowed to prohibit employees from reporting or retaliate against employees who report criminal activity or gross waste of public funds. Employers cannot suspend, demote or discharge employees for making such reports or bringing civil suits against their employers.
Public employers in Pennsylvania cannot threaten, discharge, discriminate or retaliate against employees who choose to report waste, wrongdoing, violations of federal or state laws and regulations, or codes of conduct and ethics. They are also not allowed to retaliate against employees who participate in court proceedings involving the employer. Employers can be fined up to $500 for breaking these regulations.
In Rhode Island, public and private employers cannot threaten, discriminate against, or discharge employees for reporting a violation of a law to a public body, or for participating in an investigation, hearing, inquiry or court action. Employees have three years to report retaliation actions committed by their employer.
Government employers in South Carolina cannot demote, discharge, suspend, discipline or threaten employees who report violations of state and federal laws, expose fraud, waste, corruption, or who participate in a trial involving wrongdoing by their employer. If an employee is dismissed within one year of making a report, they are eligible to file a suit.
If a South Dakota employee experiences wrongful discharge as a result of whistleblowing activities, they can file a complaint within three years of the retaliatory action taking place. Employees cannot receive retaliation for refusing to commit criminal or unlawful acts, or reporting unlawful activities to a supervisor or outside official.
Public and private employees in Tennessee cannot be discharged for refusing to participate in unlawful activity, or disclosing unlawful activities. Whistleblowers in public education are protected with the same rights under the Education Truth in Reporting and Employee Protection Act of 1989.
Texas employees within the healthcare industry are heavily protected from retaliation as a result of whistleblowing activity. Public employees cannot be retaliated against for reporting unlawful activity. General retaliation lawsuits must be filed within two years of occurrence.
Public employees in Utah cannot be discharged, discriminated against, disciplined or threatened for reporting a waste of public funds, or violation of a state or federal law. However, they will not be protected unless they give written notice of the violation to their employer or make false reports. If they suffer retaliation, they must report it within 180 days and their employer can face up to $500 in fines.
If a Vermont employee experiences retaliation for whistleblowing activities, they have six years to file a lawsuit against their employer. Discrimination lawsuits do not have a set time frame in which an employee has to report the action.
Employees in Virginia must file wrongful termination suits within two years of being discharged for whistleblowing activities. If an employee is retaliated against for filing a health and safety complaint within their workplace, they must file a wrongful termination suit within 60 days of the retaliatory action.
In Washington, state employees who give state auditors information about unlawful activities happening within the workplace and face retaliation can take their issues to the higher courts. However, they first must attempt to solve the problem within their administration. State officials who retaliate against employees for whistleblowing can face fines up to $3,000 and 30 day suspensions.
State employers in West Virginia cannot retaliate against whistleblowers through discharge, discrimination, threats or any other unethical employee treatment, even if the employee has not yet become a whistleblower and is simply considering reporting issues to an outside official. Employees have 180 days to sue their employers for discriminatory issues. Officials can face up to $500 in fines for this action, as well as a 6 month suspension.
The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act protects employees who choose to file reports or testify in hearings involving unlawful activity within their workplace. Employees are also protected against discrimination regarding race, age, gender, prior conviction, arrest record, and any sort of military history. Employees must file suits against their employers for violating the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act within 300 days of incidence.
In Wyoming, if an employee is retaliated against for becoming a whistleblower, they are able to file a wrongful termination suit within 4 years of occurrence. If an employee wants to file an occupational health and safety suit with the Wyoming Department of Employment, it must be filed within 30 days of retaliatory action.