Whistleblowing in New Mexico might be dangerous, but it’s a moral obligation. Many people are afraid to report illegal activities and injustice that occurs in their workplace. They fear losing their jobs if they stand up and speak up about their rights.
If you have faced any form of injustice at your workplace, you wonder what consequences will you face if you report it.
In 2010, New Mexico’s Legislature passed the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). The purpose of a whistleblower protection act is to protect employees who put their job security at risk for the good of the public by revealing unlawful and improper actions of public officials.
Whistleblowing in New Mexico has a Legislative Protection
Whistleblowers shouldn’t be affected legally in any way. The state forbids employers seeking revenge against employees who testify, file a complaint, exercise a right, or institute a proceeding related to the Human Rights Act, The Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Mining Safety Act, the Radiation Protection Act, Medicaid fraud, or seeking workers’ compensation benefits.
Retaliation includes avoiding giving you a promotion that you would have got otherwise, cutting your pay, or creating unpleasant workplace conditions so you quit.
Firing an employee for whistleblowing in New Mexico is considered an illegal reason to fire an employee under the at-will doctrine.
Things To Consider Before Whistleblowing in New Mexico
Although firing is illegal in cases of whistleblowing in New Mexico, it can happen and happens frequently. The best way you can protect yourself is to prepare in advance. When you report the problem to your employer, report it in written form and save a copy. it’s a crucial step to accessing protections for whistleblowing in New Mexico
Once you do the report, document any illegal practices or discriminatory activities, and collect evidence you believe will help you. Evidence such as salary history or performance reviews will help you have strong evidence of where you stand in your company when you make the report. This can help you in case you prove that you were denied a promotion or that your salary was decreased after you made your report.
Does WPA Apply To Me?
The WPA applies to public employers. According to the WPA definition, public employers include:
- Any department, office, agency, board, institution, commission, committee, branch, or district of state government
- Any political subdivision of the state
- Any entity of the state specifically provided for by law
- Every office or officer (listed in the first and second bullet point)
A public employee can sue the entity they work for, as well as individuals within the entity who are “public officers.” The WPA does not define what makes someone a “public officer”. The New Mexico Court of Appeals analyzed that question and concluded that the fact someone is a supervisor does not make them a public officer under the WPA. The person is a public officer (who can be sued directly under the WPA) if they have autonomy and independence in their duties. That person is not subject to the ultimate decision-making authority of a higher-up supervisor.
What Does the WPA Forbid?
The WPA forbids a public employer from taking retaliatory action against a public employee for these actions:
- Reporting a public employer’s unlawful or improper acts;
- Testifying about a public employer’s unlawful or improper acts in a public investigation;
- Refusing to take part in the public employer’s unlawful or improper act.
What Аwards Can You Get if If you Win Your WPA Claim?
If you violated the WPA you’ll be accountable to the employee for the following:
- real damages
- twice the amount of back pay with interest on the back pay
- reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would have had but for the violation
- compensation for any special damage that occurred as a result of the violation. The employer will be required to pay the litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees of the employee.
Most of the relevant defenses depend upon the specific allegations of the employee’s claim. Two standard defenses will apply to every WPA claim.
Contact FBD for Help with Your Whistleblower Claim
Claims under the WPA must be brought within two years of the date the retaliatory action occurred. Any claim brought by the employee after this limitation period is permitted.
An employer can defend against a WPA claim by showing that the action they took against the employee was not retaliation for the employee’s WPA activity but because of the employee’s misconduct, their poor job performance, a reduction in workforce, or another legitimate business purpose.
If you decided to report any injustice that was happening in your workplace and now you’re facing termination, you should consult with an attorney.
Our team at Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward PA is here to help you; contact our office.