Federal Environmental Protection Laws For Whistleblowers

Turtle in the sea

There are many laws which protect crucial components of the environment. Laws that ensure individuals can breathe clean air or drink clean water or dispose of waste in a harmless manner. However, corporations do not always comply with the imposed regulations. For some, it’s easier to sidestep permit conditions than to consider public harm. When this occurs, they should be held accountable. Most often than not, employees of those corporations are the ones who blow the whistle on the violations or illegal practices. For this reason, federal laws have been established to protect whistleblowers from repercussions they may face as a result of exercising their right to report unlawful activity.

What are the Environmental Protection Laws?

There are seven major federal environmental laws that have distinct provisions in place for safeguarding the rights of American employees who supply information on environmental wrongdoing.

These are:

  • Toxic Substances Control Act
  • Clean Air Act
  • Federal Water Pollution Control Act
  • Atomic Energy Act
  • Solid Waste Disposal Act
  • Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Superfund Act

Moreover, other statutes also offer monetary rewards and protection rights to environmental whistleblowers, for example, the False Claims Act and the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act.

What is the Purpose?

In the early 1970s, the first environmental whistleblower law was enacted by Congress. The significant legislation was aided by an important fact: workers were frequently able to uncover breaches of environmental laws much quicker than the government due to their close ties with the culpable organization. Thus, it was important to allow them to securely report misconduct without fear of retaliation or harassment.

Who is Protected?

Almost every worker in America, both in the private and public sectors, is protected. This can include high-level personnel like managers and executives to lower-level staff, hourly workers, and independent contractors.

What to Do If You Believe You’re Being Retaliated Against?

Unfortunately, many people who make the valiant decision to alert the government about safety and environmental concerns are mistreated and discriminated against by their employers, who are usually the malefactors. Retaliation can be in the form of dismissal, discipline, and other adverse effects.

If an employee has reported a company’s improper practices and believes the employer is taking retaliatory action because of it, then that employee is entitled under the various whistleblower laws to file a complaint. The complaint should be filed with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

How soon can a complaint be filed?

There isn’t a lengthy period in which to file a complaint. In general, the statute of limitations is thirty (30) calendar days. This means that action must be taken as quickly as possible from the time an employee thinks the employer has shown some type of retaliation.

However, it should be noted that whistleblower provisions exist on federal and state levels, therefore the scope of protection and stature of limitations can vary. It is always prudent to contact an experienced lawyer to help clarify the applicable laws on a case by case basis.

What Remedies Are Available?

An employee who is victorious can be reinstated in a previous post, get a promotion, reclaim lost benefits, receive back pay, receive compensation for pain and suffering as well as the cost of litigation and attorney fees, and several other remedies. The sum of which can climb into the multi-million-dollar range.

Conclusion

Environmental laws promote continuity and conservation. Breaking these laws can lead to disastrous and wide-reaching consequences in the short-term and the long-term. Thankfully, Congress has recognized the need for environmental preservation and protection for persons who bring relevant violations to the forefront. Individuals are armed with numerous federal and state environmental whistleblower rights and should not hesitate to contact an attorney in order to explore all their options and ensure the wrongdoers face the full penalties of the law.

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