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The law provides protection for whistleblowers

As an internal accountant, you have access to your employer's books and you understand the importance of effective internal controls. Over the last few months, you have been preparing the financials for an audit. As you were pouring over the accounts, you began to notice some discrepancies. Someone has been diverting funds from various acc ounts and you suspect that it is someone in management.

You know that you have to step forward and say something, but you are concerned about the risks. Will the other members of management ignore your concerns and sweep the situation under the rug? Will they fire you for finding the problem? If so, will you be able to find another job? What other ways might the company retaliate against you?

We tend to think that our employers are honest and act both legally and ethically in their business dealings. Sometimes we find out that this is not the case. When that happens, you can find yourself in a difficult situation. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect people who report fraud or illegal conduct in the workplace. An experienced attorney can help you understand whistleblower laws in West Virginia.

Read below for basic information on West Virginia whistleblower protection laws.

Whistleblower protection laws in general

When employees report illicit activities of their employers, the state provides legal protections against retaliation. For example, if you report the illegal conduct of your manager, you will be protected from the company firing, demoting or punishing you in some other way.

West Virginia statutes

West Virginia Code 6C-1-1 defines whistleblower protections and prohibited employer activity. According to the statute, your employer is prohibited from discharging, threatening, or discriminating against you if you report or testify about a violation of state or federal regulations.

Code 21-3A-13 provides protection for public employees that that file a complaint, institutes a proceeding, or testifies about a violation of the occupational safety and health act.

Remedies

If the company fires you for reporting a violation of federal or state regulations, you have the right to file a civil action within 180 days for reinstatement, back pay, legal fees, and even full fringe benefits.

Cases that involve an employee reporting violations of OSHA allow the terminated worker to file a complaint with the commissioner within 30 days for reinstatement, back pay, and any other remedy the court deems appropriate.

In general, West Virginia's whistleblower laws apply to public employees that report safety violations. However, there are federal laws that apply to whistleblowers that work for companies that have defrauded the government. In addition, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 provides protection for employees that report securities, shareholder, and other kinds of fraud.

If you see fraudulent or illegal activity in the workplace, or safety violations, you should not fear stepping forward and speaking up. There are laws in place that will protect you at both the state and federal levels. If your employer has retaliated against you for blowing the whistle, it is important that you understand your rights and options.

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