State Whistleblower Laws
Whistleblowers are typically current or former employees who bring to light activities by their employer that are fraudulent or outright illegal. The employer may be a government organization or part of the private sector. State and federal law protects these whistleblowers from potential retaliatory action.
Many states and Washington D.C. have enacted legislation to protect whistleblowers. These laws are itemized below. Federal law also offers a number of protections to these individuals in both the private and public sectors. This federal legislation can be reviewed on the U.S. Department of Labor website.
|State||Citation||Type of Employees Protected||Protections/Provisions|
|Alabama||§36-26A-1||State||Employers may not retaliate against a state employee for reporting a law, rule or regulation violation to a public body.Prohibited retaliatory activities include discriminatory action against the employer by altering his/her compensation, conditions, terms or privileges of employment; and termination, transfer or demotion.Two year statute of limitations.The aggrieved employee may seek relief in a civil action for front-pay, back-pay, and other compensatory damages.|
|Alaska||§39.90.110, et seq.||Public||Employers may not threaten, discriminate against or terminate an employee for reporting to a public entity or participating in an inquiry or court proceeding on a public concern issue. The limit on civil fines and punitive and compensatory damages is $10,000.|
|California||Govt. Code §§53296 et seq.||All||Employees who report reasonably valid state or federal legal violations are protected from retaliatory action. Prohibits employers from enacting and enforcing any policy or rules to the contrary.90 day statute of limitations from the date of the alleged retaliatory action.Claims are reported to the AR Div. of Labor Standards Enforcement.|
|Colorado||§24-50.5-101 et seq.||State||Addresses actions against the public interest by state agencies, such as abuse of authority, public funds waste, and agency mismanagement. Agencies and supervisors are prohibited from retaliating against or discharging an employee for disclosing the prohibited activities.|
|Connecticut||§§31-51m & 4-61dd||Private and Public||Protects employees from retaliation, discrimination, termination, disciplinary action and other penalties for disclosing actual or suspected illegal activities on the local, state and federal level.Remedies in a civil suit include benefits, reinstatement and back-pay. Employee must first exhaust available administrative remedies. Successful lawsuits on behalf of the employee may recover attorney fees and costs.
90 day statute of limitations, runs from time of either final administrative action or the alleged prohibited treatment, whichever occurs later.
Reports of state law violations, abuse of authority, unethical practices, corruption, mismanagement, waste of funds, and danger to public safety to the CT Attorney General are permitted. Retaliatory action and disclosure of the employee’s name is unlawful.
Employees who knowingly file a false report are not protected, and may be terminated.
|Delaware||Title 29, §5115||Public||Suspected or actual violations of federal or state law are reported to the Office of the Auditor of Accounts. Provided the employee does not knowingly file a false report, s/he may not be discriminated against, threatened or terminated for filing.
90 statute of limitations to file a civil suit.
|Florida||§448.102||Private and Public||Protected whistleblower actions include disclosure or threat of disclosure to a govt. agency of any unlawful policy or practice; testimony in a violations investigation; or refusal to follow an unlawful regulation or rule, or take part in an unlawful practice, policy or activity.
No punitive measures may be taken against the employee for these protected actions, which disclose violations that create specific and significant danger to the public welfare, health or safety.Prohibited retaliatory actions includes adverse personnel measures, discharge, or other disciplinary behavior.
|Hawaii||§378-61 et seq.||Private and Public||Protected actions include reporting a violation or suspected violation of any law on the local, state or federal level, provided the employee doesn’t file a knowingly false report.Prohibited retaliatory behavior includes discrimination against the reporting employee by way of his/her employment terms, compensation, location, conditions or privileges of employment, threats or termination.
90 statute of limitations to file a civil suit.
Remedies include back-pay, reinstatement, attorney fees and court costs. Maximum fine is $500 per violation.
|Illinois||20 ILCS 415/19c.1||Public||Protected whistleblower activities include disclosure of any violations of a law or rule, waste of funds, mismanagement, abuse of authority, or significant and specific danger to public safety or health.
Disciplinary action for the disclosure is prohibited when the employee reasonably believes the violations or other unlawful activities occurred, nor may the employee’s name be revealed without his/her consent.
|Indiana||§4-15-10-4||State||Protected whistleblower activities include reporting any agency regulation violation, state or federal law violation, and misuse of public resources.
Prohibited retaliatory measures include termination, denial of benefits and wages, reassignment, transfer and demotion of the employee.
Employee must initially file the report/complaint with his/her supervisor. After a reasonable time period, if no action is taken, the employee may escalate the report to an organization or agency, or make the information public knowledge.False reporting is not protected.
|Iowa||§§19A.19 & 70A.29||State||Protected activities include legally permitted disclosures of a law or rule violation, abuse of authority or funds, mismanagement, and specific and significant danger to public safety or health.
The employer is barred from terminating the employee or taking other adverse personnel action in retaliation.
The employee is also protected when disclosure is made to an official of a political subdivision or the state, or to a member of the General Assembly.
|Kansas||§75-2973||State||State employees may discuss agency operations with a member of the legislature or report federal or state law violations. No initial report to the employee’s supervisor is required. However, the employee is required to disclose the substance of the testimony he/she will give and to inform supervisors of any legislative requests.
Disciplinary action for disclosure of confidential information or false testimony by an employee is permitted.Wronged employees may pursue relief from the state civil service board or in a court of law.
|Kentucky||§61.102 et seq.||State||The employee is protected from retaliatory actions for good faith reporting of suspected or actual violations of local, state or federal regulations and laws, waste, mismanagement, endangerment of the public health or fraud.
Reporting agencies include the General Assembly, state agencies or officials, law enforcement agencies, the judicial branch, and the Legislative Research Commission.Prohibited retaliatory action includes discrimination and threats by the state and political subdivisions.
The employee is not compelled to notify a supervisor prior to making a report. However, the employee may be compelled to inform the employer of any official requests for information and to disclose the nature of the testimony he/she will give.
Disciplinary action for offering false testimony or disclosure of confidential information is permissible.90 day statute of limitations.Remedies in civil court include reinstatement, back-pay and damages.
|Louisiana||§§30:1074.1 & 23:964||All||Protected whistleblower activities include the filing of complaints or good faith reporting of potential state, local or federal environmental protection law violations; and providing testimony or information in state labor law violation investigations.Employers are prohibited from discharging, retaliating or discriminating against the reporting employee.With respect to discriminatory actions for disclosure of environmental protection law violations, the employee may seek treble damages, court costs and attorney fees in district court.In instances of labor law violations, the assistant secretary of labor may seek civil remedies for the employee. Remedies include up to $500 in fines and an award of court costs and attorney fees to the successful party. Criminal penalties may apply as well, and include up to 90 days of jail time and up to $250 in fines.|
|Maine||Title 5 §4572||Private and Public||Protected activities include the refusal by an employee to participate in an activity that puts him/her or another party at risk; good faith reporting of the suspected or actual violation of a federal, state or local regulation or law; reporting a practice or activity that places the employee, another person or the public’s safety or health in danger; or participation in an inquiry, court proceeding or investigation.Employers with at least one employee are prohibited from discriminating against, discharging or threatening an employee who engages in these protected activities.Before reporting the violation, the employee is required to inform the supervisor of the alleged wrongdoing and allow the employer a reasonable time period for correction.
Wronged employees are permitted to file a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission and seek civil remedies under common law.
|Massachusetts||Ch. 149 §85||All||Employers are prohibited from taking retaliatory action against an employee for reporting illegal violations or risks to safety, public health or the environment. Any adverse action with respect to the employment terms and conditions of the employee is barred, as is retaliatory termination, demotion, or suspension.|
|Michigan||§15.361 et seq. and case law||All||Discrimination, constructive discharge, or actions that cause constructive discharge in retaliation for reporting illegal activity to a public body are prohibited. This protected disclosure or intent to disclose may be made by either the employee or an individual acting on his/her behalf. False reporting is not protected.
Additionally, an employer may not enforce retaliatory measures against an employee when s/he is asked to participate in a hearing, inquiry, investigation or court action.
|Minnesota||§181-931 et seq.||Private and Public||An employer may not take retaliatory action against an employee for reporting in good faith an actual or suspected violation of a federal or state rule or law, or for refusing to participate in what s/he believes is an activity that violates a federal or state rule or law. False reporting is not protected.
Prohibited retaliatory actions include disciplinary measures, discrimination, threats, and termination, nor may the employer penalize the employee with respect to his/her privileges, terms, and conditions of employment, compensation, or location.The wronged employee may seek damages in civil court, attorney fees and court costs. If the employee is terminated, he has up to five days to request a written accounting describing why s/he was terminated. Failure to provide the terminated employee with the written explanation within five business days will result in fines of $25 per day with a maximum of $750 per wronged employee. The employee is prohibited from bringing a defamation, slander or libel suit against the employer for the information provided in the written notice.
|Missouri||§105.055||State||State agencies cannot take disciplinary action against an employee for disclosing alleged prohibited activity under investigation or for disclosing information which the employee reasonably believes to be a violation of law or rule, mismanagement, waste of funds, abuse of authority or a specific and substantial danger to public health or safety. Protections do not apply if the employee knows the disclosure to be false or if it was made in reckless disregard for the truth.|
|Nebraska||§§48-1102 & 48-1114||Private,
|Applies to employers with at least 15 employees, unions and employment agencies. These entities are prohibited from discriminating against an individual who has refused to follow a directive which violates federal or state law, or if the individual has opposed any practice that violates federal or state law.|
|New Hampshire||§359-B4||Private and Public||Prohibited retaliatory actions by an employer include discrimination with respect to compensation, location, terms or conditions of employment; termination; and threats.
Protected whistleblower activity include participation in a hearing, investigation or inquiry by a government agency; refusal to follow instructions that violate a law or rule; and good faith reporting by the employee of a violation of a local, state or federal law or rule.
To receive legal protections, the employee must initially report the alleged wrongdoing to his/her supervisor, who is allowed time for correction. An exception to this rule exists when the employee reasonably believes prompt correction will not be forthcoming.The wronged employee may seek relief from the commissioner of labor via a hearing, as well as through civil or union procedures.Remedies include back-pay, reinstatement, benefits and injunctive relief.
|New Jersey||§34:19-3 et seq. and case law||Private and Public||Protected whistleblower activities include the threat of disclosure or actual disclosure of policies, practices or activity that the employee reasonably maintains is unlawful; testifying or offering information in a violation investigation by a public body; refusal or an objection to participation in a practice, policy or activity that the employee in good faith believes is fraudulent, violates the law, is criminal, or threatens known public policy on the safety, health, protection or welfare of the environment. The disclosure made or threatened may be to either a supervisor or a public body.Eligibility for this protection is contingent upon written notice by the employee, of the violation, provided to a supervisor. Reasonable time for correction must be provided. Exceptions to this rule exist when the employee fears physical harm and the situation constitutes an emergency, or s/he holds a reasonable certainty that the supervisor is already aware of said violation.A claim under the state’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act requires that the employee establish his/her reasonable belief that the conduct of the employer actually violated public policy or broke the law, rather than the resulted from an error in judgment.|
|New York||Labor Law §740 & Civil Service Law §75-b||Private and Public||Employers are prohibited from carrying out retaliatory action against or disciplining employees for threatening or actually revealing violations of regulations or laws through the employer’s practices or policies. Disclosure or threats to disclose activities that threaten public safety or health, and disclosure of improper government action to a governmental body is also protected.Wronged employees may seek back pay and benefits in a civil action, and may be eligible for attorney fees and costs.In the event that the employee filed suit without a basis in law or fact, the employer may recover attorney fees and costs.|
|North Dakota||§34-06-20||Private||The law protects employees who refuse to follow a directive that s/he believes is illegal or who reports a suspected or actual violation of a federal or state law or regulation.Prohibited punitive actions by an employer include punishment or penalties affecting the employee’s work conditions, compensation, privileges of employment, location and discharge.The wronged employee is permitted to sue for injunctive relief, attorney fees and damages within 90 days of the purported discrimination.When an employer purposefully violates this law, s/he is subject to criminal prosecution and a maximum fine of $500.|
|Ohio||§4113.52(A)(1) et seq. and §124.341||Private and Public||An employer is prohibited from retaliating against or otherwise disciplining an employee who reports local, state or federal legal violations, or rule violations. Employee is not protected from discipline if s/he has made no good faith effort to verify the accuracy of his/her report.Reporting employee must first submit a written, detailed report to his/her supervisor specifying the violation. Employer has 24 hours to correct the violation with good faith effort. Failing this, the employee is permitted to notify a law officer, the prosecuting authority, or other applicable public official or agency.A different law protects state employees from retaliation and disciplinary action for reporting a misuse of public resources or federal or state rule or statute violations. The wronged employee may seek remedies solely through an appeal to the state personnel board of review within 30 days of the purported retaliatory action. False reporting is not protected and is subject to disciplinary action.|
|Oklahoma||Title 74 §840-2.5||State||Protected whistleblower actions include disclosure of public information; gross waste of public funds; mismanagement; federal or state law or policy violations; danger to public safety or health; and discussion with the legislature or the governor of functions or operations of government agencies.Employees may not be disciplined for these actions provided they did not recklessly or knowingly spread confidential or false information.|
|Oregon||§659.505||Private and Public||Employers may not engage in retaliatory action against employees who report gross waste of public funds or criminal activity; assist in a criminal investigation; or file suit against the employer.Prohibited punitive behavior includes termination, suspension and demotion.|
|Pennsylvania||§1421 et seq.||Public||Employer is barred from retaliating or discriminating against, threatening or terminating an employee for engaging in protected whistleblowing activities.Protected activities include good faith reporting of waste or wrongdoing, or of violations on the local, state or federal level, of regulations or laws, ethics or codes of conduct enacted to protect the public interest; and participation in a hearing, court action or investigation.Remedies for the wronged employee include civil actions for injunctive relief and damages.180 day statute of limitations from the date of the purported retaliatory action.A maximum $500 fine may be levied against the employer.|
|Rhode Island||§28-50-4||Private and Public||Employers are barred from discriminating against, threatening or terminating an employee in retaliation for reporting law or regulation violations to a public body; or for participating in an inquiry, court action, investigation or hearing.Three year statute of limitations.Wronged employee may seek relief via a civil suit for damages and remedies.|
|South Carolina||§8-27-10 et seq.||Govt.||Protected whistleblower activities include testifying in a hearing or in court regarding wrongdoing by the employer; reporting of legal state or federal violations and rule violations; and disclosure of corruption, criminal activity, fraud, waste or gross negligence.Prohibited retaliatory behavior by an employer includes suspension, termination, demotion, decreased compensation, threats and other disciplinary action. Unfounded, bad faith reporting is not protected and may lead to discharge of the employee.If the employer terminates the employee within one year of the protected action, the worker must first exhaust all available administrative remedies, before pursuing a civil suit. Remedies include reinstatement, recovery of lost wages, attorney fees and court costs.When the reporting action leads to the saving of public funds, the employee who reported the wrongdoing is eligible to recoup up to 25% of the estimated savings, limited to a $2,000 maximum.|
|Tennessee||S.B. 682 (2010)||Public and Private||Addresses the termination of an employee as retaliation for reporting unlawful activities and the available remedies via civil action by private employees, state employees and specific individuals who are paid or employed by the federal government.|
|Utah||§67-21-1 et seq.||Public||Protected activities include reporting of suspected or actual presence of waste of manpower, property, or public funds; suspected or actual violation of federal or state law; and refusal to comply with an order reasonably believed to be unlawful.Employers are barred from terminating, discriminating against, disciplining or threatening an employee for engaging in protected activities. False, malicious, or frivolous reporting is not protected.Employees are required to follow administrative reporting procedures and provide the employer with written notice of the violation. Exceptions exist if the employee reasonably believes this notice will be futile.180 day statute of limitations.Remedies for retaliatory action include recovery of benefits and back-pay, reinstatement, attorney fees and costs via a civil action.A maximum $500 fine may be levied against the violating employer.|
|Washington||§§ 42.40.020, 42.40.030 and 42.40.050||State||Employers are barred from retaliatory action against employees who inform state auditors of improper governmental activities. Acting in good faith, the employee must initially attempt to provide the information to the agency head prior to filing a report.The aggrieved employee isn’t required to exhaust administrative remedies before appealing to the superior court for a review of the purported retaliation.A minimum punitive action against the offending employer is a letter of reprimand added to their personnel file. Additionally, they face personal liability, a maximum $3,000 fine and up to a 30 day suspension.|
|West Virginia||§6C-1-3 et seq.||State||Protected whistleblower activities include actual or intended good faith reporting of waste or wrongdoing to a public body or the employer; and participation in inquiries, investigations, trials or hearings regarding said violations.The employer may not engage in retaliatory action or discrimination against an employee by changing his/her work conditions, location, terms, compensation or privileges, nor threaten to do so, nor terminate the employee.180 day statute of limitations.The wronged employee may seek injunctive relief and damages via a civil suit. Remedies include the recovery of benefits and back-pay, reinstatement, witness and attorney fees, and court costs.Employer and public official violators are subject to a maximum $500 civil fine. Unelected public officials may face up to six months of suspension from public service.|