Environmental Whistleblower Rights
For those who blow the whistle on environmental damage or threaten the environment, there are multiple federal laws to protect them. Those laws include:
- The Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. § 7622
- The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 15 U.S.C. § 2622
- The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) (a.k.a. Clean Water Act), 33 U.S.C. § 1367
- The Energy Reorganization Act (ERA) (also encompassing the Atomic Energy Act), 42 U.S.C. § 5851
- The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) (also encompassing the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA)), id. § 6901
- The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), id. § 300j-9(i)
- The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) (a.k.a. Superfund), id. § 9610
Whistleblowers have been afforded additional protection under the Federal Claims Act which applies to cases wherein companies who have contracts with the federal government are committing fraud. Many states also have their own laws protecting environmental whistleblowers.
Protected activities covered under the law are reporting violations of environmental statutes, commencement of a proceeding for violation of federal environmental laws, testifying in a proceeding, or participating in or assisting any proceedings which may implicate violations of environmental law. However, any employee who causes a violation of federal environmental law without direction of the employer is excluded from these protections.
Retaliation for environmental whistleblowing is prohibited by law and those reporting wrongdoings can receive damages if they experience retaliation. Retaliation is defined as any act that would discourage the employee from continuing further whistleblowing activities and includes threatening to discharge or layoff the employee, termination, demotion, denial of benefits or promotion, salary reduction, refusal to hire/rehire, blacklisting, or harassment.
To file a successful complaint for whistleblower retaliation, there must be sufficient evidence to prove that the employer knew about the employee’s actions and took adverse action because of them. Complaints must be filed with the United States Department of Labor and most federal laws require that this action be taken within thirty days of the date that the employee receives notice of the retaliatory action. Many state laws allow for a longer statute of limitations and other benefits not provided for by federal law.
Compensation for Environmental Whistleblowers
A plaintiff whose claims are successful can expect a return to the employment status they had before engaging in whistleblowing actions. Depending on which law the claim is brought under, this may include some or all the following types of compensation:
- Back pay with interest
- Front pay
- Damages for emotional distress
- Damages for loss of professional reputation
- Restoration of seniority, sick leave, and other benefits of employment
- Legal fees including fees for representation, expert witness fees, and other costs
- Punitive damages
- Letter of apology and the requirement to formally post the court’s decision
Although the protections for environmental whistleblowers are broad, they are also complex, often with strict filing deadlines that must be met to receive compensation. The advice of an experienced whistleblower lawyer is indispensable to bringing a successful claim and receiving justice and compensation.
Philadelphia Whistleblower Lawyers at Williams Cedar Fight for the Rights of Environmental Whistleblowers
Going up against your employer is a big risk that takes courage and the willingness to stand up for what is right. William Cedar will be at your side to protect your rights when you choose one of our Philadelphia whistleblower lawyers to advocate on your behalf. Call us today at 215-557-0099 for a free consultation about your case or contact us online.