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Your Rights Filing a Whistleblower or Retaliation Claim - Louisiana

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

The general rule is that most employees may be fired at any time-for any reason or for no reason at all-under what is known as the at-will employment doctrine. However, in the past half century, many exceptions to the general rule have emerged. In Louisiana, exceptions to this general rule come from the legislature.

The Louisiana State Legislature has adopted statutory protections for certain activities. Louisiana has adopted a general whistleblower protection statute and an environmental whistleblower statute. Also, several other Louisiana statutes contain anti-retaliation provisions. Employees who engage in protected activities (usually filing a complaint or testifying) under laws in the following subject areas are protected from retaliation: health care employees, insurer employees, labor investigations & proceedings, and workers' compensation.

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?

General Whistleblower Protection Law: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for performing, in good faith, the following activities:

  • Disclosing (or threatening to disclose) a workplace act or practice that violates state law;
  • Providing information or testimony in a public investigation, hearing, or inquiry into any violation of the law;
  • Refusing to participate in (or objecting to) an illegal employment act.

To be protected under this statute, the employee must first inform the employer of the violation. An employee is not protected if he goes directly to a governmental agency without first advising the employer. Also, an employee must be certain that the illegal conduct actually happened; a reasonable, good faith belief will not protect an employee if no violation actually occurred. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:967.

Environmental Whistleblowers: An employee may not be retaliated against for performing the following activities:

  • Disclosing (or threatening to disclose) suspected violations of an environmental law, rule, or regulation. The disclosure is protected only if made to a supervisor or to a public body. The employer does not necessarily have to violate an environmental law for the employer to be protected: the employee's reasonable belief that a violation has occurred is sufficient.
  • Providing information or testimony in a public investigation, hearing, or inquiry concerning environmental violations.

An employee is not protected if the employee himself, on his own initiative, deliberately commits a violation of environmental laws. La. Rev. Stat. § 30:2027.

Health Care Employees: A health care employee may not be retaliated against for communicating with the Department of Hospitals for the purpose of aiding the office in carrying out its responsibilities. La. Rev. Stat. § 40:2009.17.

Insurer Employees: An insurance company employee may not be penalized for reporting suspected violations of certain state insurance laws. To be protected, the disclosure must be made to the Commissioner of Insurance or to other appropriate authorities. An insurance company may be fined up to $10,000 for retaliating against an employee. La. Rev. Stat. § 22:13.

Labor Investigations & Proceedings: An employee may not be discharged (or discriminated against) in retaliation for testifying (or otherwise providing information) in an investigation or proceeding to enforce state labor laws. An employer who retaliates for this reason may be fined between $100 - $250 and may be imprisoned between 30-90 days. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:964.

Public Employees: A public employee may be protected from retaliation where they have reported a violation of a rule, law, or regulation of the state government. La. Rev. Stat.§ 42:1169.

Workers' Compensation: An employee may not be discharged for filing a workers' compensation claim. Even if the workers' compensation claim is filed in another state, or under federal law, the employee is protected under Louisiana's anti-retaliation measure. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1361.

3. How do I file a whistleblower or retaliation claim in Louisiana?

Generally: An employee may file a wrongful discharge lawsuit in an appropriate court. The lawsuit must be filed within the one year La. Civ. Code Art. 3492. prescriptive period (commonly called the statute of limitations outside of Louisiana), unless otherwise specified by statute. The one year prescriptive period applies to all "delictual actions" - essentially, lawsuits concerning injuries to the person - but does not apply to minors. If you believe you have a claim, you should contact a lawyer immediately.

General Whistleblower Protection Law: An employee may file a lawsuit in an appropriate court (where the retaliation occurred). The lawsuit must be filed within one year of the retaliatory action. A wrongfully discharged employee may recover compensatory damages, back pay, benefits, reinstatement, reasonable attorney fees, and court costs resulting from the reprisal. If you believe you have a claim, you should contact a lawyer immediately.

Environmental Whistleblowers: An employee may file a lawsuit in an appropriate court (a district court in the employee's parish). The lawsuit must be filed within one year of the retaliatory action. A wrongfully discharged employee may recover triple damages on his lost wages, up to three years. If you believe you have a claim, you should contact a lawyer immediately.

Health Care and Insurer Employees: An employee may file a lawsuit in an appropriate court. The lawsuit must be filed within one year of the retaliatory action. If you believe you have a claim, you should contact a lawyer immediately.

Labor Investigations & Proceedings: An employee may file a complaint with the Louisiana Department of Labor, Office of Regulatory Services. The Department will hold an adjudicatory hearing and may impose civil penalties or file a lawsuit.

Workers' Compensation: An employee may file a lawsuit in an appropriate court. The lawsuit must be filed within one year of the retaliatory action. An employee who is retaliated against may recover lost wages, up to one year. If you believe you have a claim, you should contact a lawyer immediately.