Federal employment law case out of Colorado good for employees

Doing the right thing is not always easy. Yet, it should never cost you your job.

There are many employment laws that protect you from wrongful termination and other unfair treatment at the workplace. For example, you may not be discriminated against because of your race, age or gender. You also may not be retaliated against for reporting wrongful discrimination and certain other illegal conduct.

In a new case out of Colorado, a federal court took an expanded view of SEC whistleblower protection laws, which shield employees who report wrongdoing by their employer from retaliation. The case is the latest in a trend generally in the direction of strengthening laws the protect employees from retaliation.

Can qualify as whistleblower even if wrongdoing not reported directly to SEC

The recent Colorado case was Genberg v. Porter, and it involved an employee at a pharmaceuticals corporation who alleged that he had been fired in retaliation for reporting violations of corporate law.

Under federal law, the employees of any company subject to regulation by the SEC are entitled to whistleblower protection. This means that when an employee reasonably believes that there is corporate wrongdoing occurring and makes a proper report, the employee qualifies as a protected "whistleblower" and may not be terminated or otherwise disciplined for making the disclosure.

In Genberg v. Porter, the plaintiff made a report of suspected corporate misconduct to management within his own company. Later, the plaintiff was terminated, and he believed the termination was made in retaliation for reporting the illegal behavior.

But should he be protected under federal whistleblower laws for making a report within his own company? The defendants in the lawsuit claimed that federal law only protects whistleblowers who make a proper report, and a proper report must be made directly to the SEC; the defendants argued that internal reports of illegal activity within an organization do not qualify an individual for whistleblower protections.

Not so fast, said the court. Harmonizing applicable federal law, the court ruled that an individual may qualify as a protected whistleblower by reporting illegal activity internally so long as the information disclosed has to do with a violation of federal securities law. While the court ultimately ruled against the plaintiff on substantive grounds, their expansion of the whistleblower definition has important implications for those who report wrongdoing by their employers.

Have you been retaliated against? Explore your legal options

Genberg v. Porter is just the latest in a trend of federal court decisions that have been favorable toward employees. If you suspect you have been wrongfully retaliated against at the workplace, you have legal rights. Talk to an employment law attorney today to discuss your case - you may be entitled to reinstatement, reimbursement for damages you sustained as a result of your employer's retaliation and other remedies.