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Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law

There has been A LOT of talk about whistleblowers – and their rights and protections – in the the news recently and it got me wondering about the Whistleblower Law in Pennsylvania. Below is what I found out for PA. If you need the law for another state, or if you need more information, we can did deeper for you.

The Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law is located at 43 Pa. Consol. Stat. Ann. §§ 1421 – 1428.

Covered Employer

Pennsylvania’s Whistleblower Law generally covers any of the following employers that receive money from a public body to perform work or provide services relative to the performance of work for, or the provision of services to, a public body:

  • An individual.
  • A partnership.
  • An association.
  • A corporation for profit.
  • A corporation not for profit.

Covered Employee

Covered employees are persons who perform a service for wages or other remuneration under a contract of hire, written or verbal, express or implied, for an employer.

Protections

Pursuant to the law, an employer may not discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee in their compensation, terms, conditions, location, or employment privileges because:

  • An employee, or a person acting on their behalf, makes a good faith report or is about to report — verbally or in writing — to the employer or appropriate authority an instance of wrongdoing or waste by a public body or an instance of waste by another employer. Waste is an employer’s conduct or omission resulting in substantial abuse, misuse, destruction, or loss of funds or resources that belong to or derive from the commonwealth or political subdivision sources.
  • An appropriate authority requests that an employee participate in its investigation, hearing, or inquiry or in a court action. An appropriate authority is:
    • A federal, state, or local government body, agency, or organization having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional conduct, or ethics.
    • A member, officer, agent, representative or supervisory employee of the body, agency, or organization.
    • The Office of Inspector General, the Office of Attorney General, the Department of the Auditor General, the Treasury Department, the General Assembly, and committees of the General Assembly having the power and duty to investigate criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional conduct or ethics, or waste.

Employers may take disciplinary action against an employee who filed a report in bad faith.

Disclosure

A whistleblower’s identity may not be disclosed by the appropriate authority (in receipt of the report) without the whistleblower’s consent unless disclosure is unavoidable in the investigation of the alleged violation.

Notice

Employers must post notices and use other appropriate means to notify employees and keep them informed of the protections and obligations under the Whistleblower Law.

Enforcement

A person who alleges a violation of the act may bring a civil action for appropriate injunctive relief or damages, or both, within 180 days after the alleged violation’s occurrence, and the court may order:

  • Employee’s reinstatement.
  • Payment of back wage.
  • Full reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights.
  • Actual damages.
  • Any combination thereof.

A court may also award the complainant all or a portion of the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney fees and witness fees, if the complainant prevails. Of note, it is a defense to an action under the Whistleblower Law if the defendant (employer) proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the actions it took occurred for separate and legitimate reasons that are not merely pretextual.