Worried About Retaliation for Speaking Up? What Arkansas Law Says for Whistleblowers
Whistleblowers play a crucial role in exposing fraud, corruption, and other misconduct in the workplace.
But the fear of retaliation or other negative consequences can deter employees from speaking up. This reluctance perpetuates a culture of secrecy and unethical behavior, ultimately creating unsafe and toxic workplaces.
By speaking up, whistleblowers can prevent harm, protect their rights, and hold their employers accountable. Know that legal protections do exist to safeguard whistleblowers from retaliation — and if you’re considering blowing the whistle or already have, you need to understand these protections.
What Is a Workplace Whistleblower?
A workplace whistleblower is an employee who reports suspected illegal, unethical, or wrongful conduct within their workplace.
There are plenty of reasons why someone might blow the whistle on their employer:
- Illegal or unethical activity: Employees may report suspected illegal or unethical conduct in the workplace, such as fraud, embezzlement, or corruption
- Workplace safety violations: Employees may report safety violations or hazardous working conditions that put them or others at risk
- Discrimination: Employees may blow the whistle on discriminatory practices, such as harassment, retaliation, or bias based on race, gender, age, or other protected characteristics
- Environmental concerns: Employees may report environmental violations, such as pollution or toxic waste disposal, that may harm public health or the environment
- Violations of company policies: Employees may report violations of company policies or procedures, such as conflicts of interest or misuse of company resources
Unfortunately, whistleblowers often face retaliation from their employers, including termination, demotion, harassment, or other forms of negative treatment.
In fact, one study shows that 1 in 4 employees who suspect illegal conduct don’t speak up because they didn’t believe corrective action would be taken, didn’t trust that the report would be confidential, or didn’t want to be seen as a “snitch.”
The good news is that many laws provide legal protections for whistleblowers who report violations of the law or other wrongdoing in the workplace.
What’s the Arkansas Whistleblower Act?
The Arkansas Whistleblower Act protects whistleblowers in Arkansas and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report suspected violations of:
- State or federal law
- Rules or regulations of a state or federal agency
- State or federal constitution
The act covers a broad range of employees, including:
- Private sector employees
- State and local government employees
- School district employees
- Employees of state-supported colleges and universities
- Employees of the Arkansas General Assembly
What If You’re Fired, Demoted, or Suspended For Being a Whistleblower?
Under the Arkansas Whistleblower Act, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report suspected violations of the law or other wrongdoing. Retaliation includes actions such as:
- Reduction in pay or benefits
But if your employer still retaliates against you in one of these ways, you may be entitled to:
- Reinstatement to the same position held before the retaliation
- Back pay and benefits
- Compensation for emotional distress
- Attorney's fees and court costs
If you believe that you’ve been retaliated against for reporting suspected violations of the law or other wrongdoing, you must file a formal complaint. The protection act will only recognize your complaint if it’s communicated in good faith.
This means different things depending on the type of employee you are. For government officials, the official website says:
To anonymously report suspicions of illegal activity by government officials, call the FBI hotline at 501.221.9100 (Press Option 8) OR 501.221.8200, or call the Arkansas State Police at 800.553.3820.
However, if you are a public employee against a public employer, then:
If a public employer takes adverse action against a public employee, that employee may bring civil suit against the public employer to recover actual damages and injunctive relief.
Most people fall into the latter category and require some type of legal help and/or representation.
An attorney can help you understand your legal rights, advise you on the best course of action, and help you pursue the compensation and protection that you are entitled to under the law. An attorney can also help you gather evidence to support your claims, negotiate with your employer or their legal representatives, and represent you in court if necessary.
How Hickey & Hull Law Partners Can Protect You
If you believe that you have been retaliated against for reporting wrongdoing, it is important to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney to help protect your rights.
Additionally, these protections are essential for promoting transparency, accountability, and a safe workplace.
Fill out our online form or contact us today to learn more about how we can help you. Our River Valley office number is 479.434.2414, and our Northwest Arkansas number is 479.802.6560.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. We can help protect you today.