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Wash.: Lawmakers Consider Whistleblower Protections

By Diane Cadrain  2/11/2014
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House Bill 2333, introduced on Jan. 15, 2014, would protect employees from retaliation if they complain about an employer’s illegal conduct, including reasonably-perceived violations of the state’s minimum wage, wage and hour, child labor and prevailing wage law. Employees are protected if they inform another person about the violation, complain to any enforcement authorities such as the Department of Labor and Industries or the Attorney General, participate in any investigation or proceeding under the laws, demand a lawful claim, seek information or inform others about rights under the law.

The bill would create a presumption that if an employer takes adverse action against an employee within 90 days of the specified activities, the employer is presumed to have acted in retaliation.

The Department of Labor and Industries would enforce the law, investigating complaints and collecting civil penalties and damages.

Current state law protects those who blow the whistle on Medicaid fraud. Also, the state’s existing Minimum Wage Act makes it a gross misdemeanor for an employer to discriminate against an employee because the employee complained about a minimum wage violation to the employer or the Department of Labor and Industries. This proposal would expand the protections currently available.

Diane Cadrain is an attorney who has been writing about employment law issues for more than 20 years.

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