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Can you be punished for not breaking the rules?

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2016 | Employment Disputes |

When you are working in Minnesota, you probably pay close attention to the rules to make sure you do not break them. This is due to the fact that if you break them, you will end up punished in some way. You might find yourself breaking small rules, such as wearing something slightly out of the dress code, but you know the ones that should never be broken. However, what if you were to be told to break the rules? If you refuse and work in the federal government, you might find yourself with no protection against retaliation, according to Government Executive.

You are protected from retaliation, including termination, under the Whistleblower Protection Act, whether you are a federal employee or work in the private sector, for saying no if a supervisor asks you to break the law. However, anything that falls under federal rules and regulations, rather than a statute, does not have the same safeguard. 

A recent ruling was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals regarding a dispute between a federal employee and the State Department. The employee refused to break federal rules to comply with an order from a supervisor and felt he was punished for doing so.

Although this is one case, it sets a precedence that federal employees are not protected from retaliation for refusing to break federal rules or regulations when asked to do so by a supervisor. The court substantiated its ruling by referencing a previous Supreme Court ruling, Department of Homeland Security v. MacLean. In this ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts said that regulations and rules should not be thought of as laws, as this could pave the way for new regulations that might ultimately reduce the protection provided by the whistleblower act

Although there is no specific law in place, these rulings from upper courts mean that you should be careful about determining what you feel you should or should not do at work if you expect protection from retaliation under the Whistleblower Protection Act. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.



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