The decision to go to authorities with complaints about an employer’s wrongful or illegal behavior is never an easy one. Whistleblower statutes attempt to reduce the hazards involved with coming forward by shielding employees who come forward with good faith concerns about potentially wrongful behavior from retaliation by their accused employers. Nevada and federal law both provide a range of protections for public employees who come forward as whistleblowers.
Nevada’s public employee whistleblower law can be found at NRS 281.611 through 671. Broadly, the statute is designed to protect state and local government employees from retaliation for reporting “improper governmental action.” This term casts a broad net, capturing actions by state or local officers and employees taken in the performance of official duties that is:
- In violation of a state law or regulation.
- In the case of local agencies, in violation of a local ordinance.
- Abuses authority.
- Presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety.
- Is a gross waste of public money.
The law protects a broad range of individuals who work for the state or a local government agency, including elected officials, political appointees, and individuals who perform public duties for compensation. State and local officers and employees are may not use their official authority to threaten, coerce, command, or otherwise influence a person who wishes to disclose improper government action. This includes taking adverse employment actions against the whistleblower, which includes everything from outright termination to unwarranted negative employment reviews. To be actionable under the statute the retaliation must have taken place within two years of the disclosure of information. A claim of wrongful reprisal for whistleblowing can be made by submitting a form to the Department of Administration Human Resource Management division.
In addition to Nevada’s general whistleblowing statute protecting public employees, other state and federal laws may be germane to specific cases:
- Section 250 of the Nevada False Claims Act protects employees and contractors who report fraud in government contracts.
- State common law recognizes that an employer’s retaliation against a whistleblowing employee violates public policy that favors disclosure of wrongdoing. “Public policy” is a specific legal concept that draws upon principles set forth in statutes and elsewhere. For public employees, one source of public policy rationales for whistleblowing is Nevada’s Ethics in Government
- The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces whistleblowing protections under a wide range of federal laws.
A public employee who is thinking about reporting bad behavior by an employer should consider consulting with an attorney before taking actions that could result in retaliation. Ideally a whistleblower gets ahead of potentially illegal reactions by an employer. At Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez we provide personal, caring counsel to each client. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us today at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.