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Your Rights Filing a Whistleblower or Retaliation Claim - Arizona

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1. What legal protection does Arizona provide private sector employees in regard to whistleblowing and retaliation?

As a general rule, Arizona follows the at-will employment doctrine. Unless limited by statute, constitutional provision, or contract, an employee may be discharged at any time for any reason-or no reason at all. The Arizona Legislature has adopted the Arizona Employment Protection Act (AEPA) as the exclusive protection and legal remedy for private sector employees against wrongful termination. The statute protects employees from discharges that are contrary to public policy. Notably, whistleblowers are protected from retaliation under the law.

Arizona has also adopted narrow statutory protections for certain activities. Statutes that contain a specific remedy provide the exclusive remedy for the violation. For statutes that do not specify a remedy, the employee can file a lawsuit for wrongful termination. The AEPA requires courts to find public policy in statutory law. The AEPA only addresses discharges; it does not address other adverse employment actions.

Other Protections
In addition to the above state protections, federal law provides workers with additional protections. Furthermore, a private contract or collective bargaining agreement may also protect employees from certain forms of retaliation.

2. What activities does state law protect, and to whom does this protection apply?

Arizona Employment Protection Act (includes Whistleblower Protection): The Arizona Employment Protection Act (AEPA) is the exclusive remedy for wrongful discharge claims.

Whistleblower Protection: An employee may not be discharged in retaliation for disclosing that he has information (or a reasonable belief) that the employer has violated, is violating, or will violate an Arizona statute or constitutional provision. To be protected, this disclosure must be made in a reasonable manner. Also, this disclosure is protected only if made either to the employer (or to a representative of the employer who the employee reasonably believes has the authority to take action) or to a public entity such as a state agency. Notably, disclosures made to media outlets are not protected by the statute. CITE: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23-1501(3)(c)(ii).

Other AEPA Protections: In addition to whistleblower protection, the AEPA specifically protects employees from several other forms of retaliation:

  • An employee may not be discharged in retaliation for refusing to commit an act that would violate state law. {CITE: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23-1501(3)(c)(i).}
  • An employee may not be discharged in retaliation for choosing not to join a labor organization. {CITE: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23-1501(3)(c)(vi).}
  • An employee may not be discharged in retaliation for exercising the following rights:
    • Workers' compensation rights {CITE: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23-1501(3)(c)(iii).}
    • Voting rights {CITE: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23-1501(3)(c)(v).}
    • Victims' leave rights {CITE: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23-1501(3)(c)(x). See also § 13-4439 (provided that the employer has 50 or more employees, victims of crimes have the right to be present at certain proceedings and may not be discharged for exercising this right).}
    • Right to be free from the extortion of fees or gratuities as a condition of employment {CITE: Ariz. Rev. Stat § 23-1501(3)(c)(viii).}
    • Right to be free from coercion to purchase goods or supplies as a condition of employment {CITE: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23-1501(3)(c)(ix).}

In addition, the AEPA also incorporates, either explicitly by reference or implicitly, anti-retaliation protections from other statutes:

Discrimination: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) for opposing a discriminatory employment practice. Nor may an employee be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for making a charge, testifying, assisting or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under Arizona's civil rights laws. These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability and national origin. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 41-1464.

Minimum Wages for Minors: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for serving on, or testifying before, a wage board in a proceeding concerning minimum wage paid to minors. An employer who violates this provision is guilty of a petty offense. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23-329(A).

Occupational Safety and Health: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) for filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, testifying in a proceeding, or exercising a right under Arizona's occupational safety and health laws. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23-425(A).

Pesticide Control: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) for filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, testified in a proceeding, or exercising a right under Arizona's pesticide control laws. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 3-376.

3. How do I file a whistleblowing or retaliation claim in Arizona?

Generally - Employment Protection Act: Unless a different law specifies another form of redress (such as filing a complaint with a government agency), an employee may file a wrongful termination lawsuit in an appropriate court. The lawsuit must be flied within one year Ariz. Rev. Stat. %26sect; 12-541. of the retaliatory action, unless otherwise specified by statute. If you intend to file a lawsuit, you should contact a lawyer immediately.

Discrimination: An employee may file a complaint with the Arizona Civil Rights Division. The complaint must be filed within 180 days Ariz. Rev. Stat. %26sect; 41-1481(A). of the retaliatory action. If the Civil Rights Division fails to resolve the claim, an employee may file a private lawsuit within 90 days after receiving notice that the claim has been dismissed. Also, the lawsuit must be filed within one year of filing a complaint with the Civil Rights Division. If you choose to proceed by a lawsuit, you should contact a lawyer immediately.

Contact information for the agency, as well, as a complaint form and other resources, is available on the Arizona Civil Rights Division's web site.

Occupational Safety and Health: An employee may file a complaint with the Industrial Commission of Arizona. The complaint must be filed within 30 days of the retaliatory action. If the commission finds that a violation has occurred, it may then bring an action in the appropriate court. The commission is required by statute to notify you of its determination within 90 days. {CITE: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 23-425.} If you believe you have a claim, you should contact the Commission immediately.

The Industrial Commission of Arizona has made the appropriate forms available on their website, in English and in Spanish. The form should be printed, completed, and mailed to:

The Industrial Commission of Arizona
800 West Washington Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

You can also reach the Arizona Industrial Commission's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) at the following phone numbers:

(602) 542-5795 (Phoenix Office)
(520) 628-5478 (Tucson Office)

Pesticide Control: An employee may file a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General. The complaint must be filed within 180 days Ariz. Rev. Stat. %26sect; 3-376(B). of the retaliatory action. The Attorney General has discretion to investigate, and if it is determined that a retaliatory violation has occurred, the Attorney General may then bring a lawsuit against the employer. If you believe you have a claim, you should contact the Attorney General immediately.

Attorney General
Terry Goddard
Office of the Attorney General
Department of Law
1275 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Phone: 602-542-5025
Fax: 602-542-4085
Email: ag.inquiries@azag.gov