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August 24, 2023 Employment Law

Whistleblower Protections Under Virginia Law

Whistleblowers serve a critical role in protecting the integrity of our government and economy, as well as fostering public trust in institutions. But whistleblowing can often expose serious fraud, waste, and abuse that can result in severe financial and criminal penalties for their perpetrators. As a result, whistleblowers frequently are the targets of retaliation by their employers. Both federal law and Virginia law provide protections for whistleblowers. If you have faced retaliation by your employer for whistleblowing activity in Virginia, a Richmond employment lawyer can advocate for your rights. 

Examples of Whistleblowing Activity 

Whistleblowers can be found in both the public and private sectors, in every industry and every level of government. They typically report actions by their employers that involve fraud, waste, or abuse against the public, the government, or their own employees or customers. Some examples of behavior that could give rise to whistleblower activity include; 

  • Financial accounting and irregularities 
  • Workplace safety violations
  • Violations of anti-discrimination laws   
  • Violations of environmental laws
  • Illegal use of kickbacks or other referral schemes
  • Medical billing fraud 
  • Financial crimes (e.g., fraud, embezzlement, etc.) 

Protected Conduct by Whistleblowers

Virginia’s Whistleblower Protection Law applies to employees who engage in one or more of the following protected activities: 

  1. Makes a report of a violation of any federal or state law or regulation to a supervisor, government body, or law enforcement official 
  2. Is requested by a government body or law enforcement official to participate in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry 
  3. Refuses to engage in criminal conduct that would subject the employee to criminal liability 
  4. Refuses an employer’s order to perform an action that violates any federal or state law or regulation and informs the employer that that is the reason for the refusal 
  5. Provides information or testifies before a government body or law enforcement official conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry into alleged violations by the employer

Employee whistleblowers who engage in any of these activities are protected so long as their behaviors are in good faith — i.e, not intended merely to harm the reputation of the employer or cause unnecessary hardship.  

Prohibited Conduct by Employers 

Employers of whistleblowers are prohibited from taking adverse employment actions against their employees who engage in a protected activity. Under Virginia law, this includes discharging, threatening, discriminating against, or penalizing the employee. It also includes taking any retaliatory action related to the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment. Virginia’s law also provides for a private cause of action by employees who allege unlawful retaliation in violation of the whistleblower law. Available damages include reinstatement of the employee’s former position and compensation for lost wages and benefits, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. 

Speak With a Richmond Employment Lawyer Before Blowing the Whistle

If you are considering blowing the whistle on your employer, you should consider speaking to an attorney first to ensure that your behavior is within the bounds of both Virginia and federal whistleblower law. For more information, please contact a Richmond employment lawyer at Pierce / Jewett by calling 757-304-6655 or using our online contact form.