Nurses and Whistleblower Protections

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of nurses and other healthcare professionals in a whole new way. Nurses are on the “front lines” of healthcare, often the first people to notice and report a problem. What happens when you speak up, and your employer retaliates?

Fortunately, whistleblower laws exist to protect nurses from retaliation from employers and colleagues.

Whistleblower protections for nurses

Whistleblowers are people who notice and report misconduct within an organization. This can include discrimination, dangerous working conditions, fraud, corruption or illegal acts. Because employers and colleagues often do not take kindly to being reported, both federal and state laws have been enacted to protect whistleblowers from being fired, demoted or otherwise retaliated against.

The federal Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) has been in existence since 1978. Federal employees who speak out about issues are protected from retaliation—but it only applies to people who work for the government. Nurses are instead protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) and the False Claims Act (FCA). These laws protect employees who organize activity to improve working conditions, who report unsafe working conditions and who report fraud against the government (e.g., Medicare and Medicaid fraud claims).

There are also state laws which create whistleblower protections for nurses and other healthcare workers. Depending on the type of claim involved, federal law, state law or both may apply.

Why do nurses need protection?

Nurses are expected to advocate for their patient’s protection and safety while working, but reporting violations can be a minefield. They may be fired, demoted or otherwise experience retaliation after reporting unsafe practices—but if they don’t, their patients and colleagues may be at risk. Whistleblower protection laws allow nurses to report unsafe working conditions or other violations without fear.

If you’re a nurse ready to blow the whistle at your workplace, an experienced whistleblower attorney at Kardell Law Group can help. Call today for a consultation.