Legare, Attwood & Wolfe attorneys Steve Wolfe and Missy Torgerson represent the former COO of DeKalb County School District, Ben Estill. Mr. Estill alleges in his lawsuit that, within months of his arrival at DCSD, he discovered several serious issues involving misuse of public funds and violations of DCSD policies and reported the same to his supervisors. The lawsuit further alleges that, after these reports, on July 26, 2021, DCSD suddenly terminated Mr. Estill.
Georgia law provides government employees like Mr. Estill with recourse in situations where they allege that they have been terminated following their disclosure of a violation of or noncompliance with a law, rule, or regulation.
Who can be a whistleblower?
In order to receive whistleblower protection in Georgia, you must first be a public employee. Public employees are those who work for the government – from the state down to the school districts. The statute’s protection covers teachers, firefighters, city managers, agency workers, and many others throughout various levels of government.
Second, you must disclose or object to a violation of or noncompliance with a law, rule, or regulation. The disclosure or objection can relate to any federal, state, or local statue or ordinance, or to more informal rules or regulations adopted pursuant to such statues or ordinances. To object to a violation or noncompliance encompasses refusing to participate further in the violation or noncompliance. Examples include disclosing a violation of spending and purchasing policies, refusing to artificially inflate students’ grades, and complaining about health code violations, amongst many other possibilities.
Who you report to matters! Under the Whistleblower statute, you must report to a supervisor or a government agency. A supervisor is someone who has the ability to direct and control your work performance, who can take corrective action regarding the violation or noncompliance, or who is otherwise designated to field complaints. A government agency is any government organization, including federal organizations, who are charged with the enforcement of laws, rules, and regulations.
What does retaliation look like?
The Georgia Whistleblower Act prevents a public employer from retaliating against public employees who disclose or object to violations or noncompliance with laws, rules, and regulations. But what is retaliation? Retaliation is an adverse action that can take many forms, including termination, discipline, demotion, reassignment, reduction in pay, denial of benefits, and more. Essentially, if the terms and conditions of your employment are changing following your whistleblower activity, your employer may be retaliating against you.
“The Georgia Whistleblower Act has a one-year statute of limitations following your discovery of the retaliation, meaning that you only have one year to file your case in court after a public employer takes an adverse action against you.”
How does the whistleblower law help?
The Georgia Whistleblower Act provides a variety of remedies for public employees who have been retaliated against. A successful whistleblower claim can lead to reinstatement, recovery of lost wages and benefits, and/or compensatory damages. Attorney’s fees may also be awarded.
What should I do if I’m being retaliated against?
Talk to an attorney at Legare, Attwood & Wolfe as soon as possible. The Georgia Whistleblower Act has a one-year statute of limitations following your discovery of the retaliation, meaning that you only have one year to file your case in court after a public employer takes an adverse action against you.
Legare, Attwood & Wolfe, LLC specializes in representing employees who have suffered civil rights violations, including racial discrimination, gender discrimination (including pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual orientation and transgender discrimination), religious discrimination, national origin discrimination, disability discrimination, as well as those who have Family Medical Leave Act claims, overtime and job misclassification claims, harassment, and breach of contract or wrongful termination claims. If you want more information about your unique situation, we’ll be glad to see if we can help. (470) 579-3936 | law-llc.com