A summary of Arkansas Whistleblower Laws
The state of Arkansas follows the employment-at-will doctrine. This means employees can be fired for any reason at all. However, exceptions to this rule apply when the employee believes the reason for the dismissal violates the state’s statutory protections or common law protections. Common law protections are unwritten and are mostly derived from similar statutes and related constitutional provisions. On the other hand, statutory protections are enacted by the state’s legislature and cover specific issues such as discrimination and workers’ compensation.
This is a summary of Arkansas Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.
Arkansas Whistleblower Rights
Common law protections
Arkansas courts can protect whistleblowers who believe their employers violated the state’s public policy when retaliating against them. To determine what constitutes public policy, the judges will look at similar statutory protections and other laws. In the past, Arkansas courts have protected activities such as exercising the right to workers’ compensation, disclosing violations of federal and state law.
Arkansas Statutory Protections
Arkansas Whistleblower Act
Under this act, public employers areprohibited from taking retaliatory action against public employees who report in good faith to the relevant authority or those who participate or testify in a hearing, proceeding, legislative inquiry, or administrative review on issues regarding waste of public funds and property, misuse of authority or a violation of any law. Also, retaliatory action against the employee is forbidden if the employee refuses to carry out a directive that would result in a violation of the law. Ark. Code Ann. § 21-1-601.
Under this statute, a person shall not discriminate against an individual because the said individual has opposed in good faith unlawful discrimination practices or because the individual has made a charge, testified, or assisted in a hearing or proceeding related to Arkansas Civil Rights Laws. The state’s civil rights laws prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, gender, or based on sensory, mental, or physical disability. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-123-108.
Employers are not allowed to discriminate against an employee by discharging the employee or by altering the terms of employment in any way because the employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim. Also, employers are prohibited from impeding or obstructing the employee from filing his or her workers’ compensation claim. Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-107.
Whistleblower Hotlines in Arkansas
To file a complaint under the discrimination statute, call the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 1-800-669-4000.
To file a complaint under the workers’ compensation statute, call the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission at 1-800-622-4472.
For those with complaints under the Arkansas Whistleblower Act, a complaint should be filed with the relevant authority, such as the attorney general. You can call the attorney general’s office at (800) 482-8982.
Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Arkansas
Unless stated otherwise by a statute, whistleblowers can file a claim or lawsuit within 3 years of the retaliation. Employees who intend to make a claim under the Arkansas Whistleblower Act must do so within 180 days of the retaliatory action. For issues concerning the discrimination statute, claims should be made within 1 year of the retaliation or within 90 days of receipt of a “Right to Sue” letter or a notice of “Determination” from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Retaliation and violation penalties in Arkansas
Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employees who suffer retaliation may be awarded compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement to the previous job position, back pay and interest on the back pay, and the recovering of court costs and attorney fees.
Employers who violate this statute may be ordered to pay back pay and interest on back pay, court and attorney fees, and punitive and compensatory damages to the employee. According to the statute, the total compensatory and punitive damages should not exceed $300,000. However, the exact amount will be awarded at the discretion of the court and based on the number of employees that the employer has.
Employers who violate this statute shall be subject to a fine of up to $10,000. The complainant shall also be able to recover costs and attorney fees from the fine. Also, the employer may be found guilty of a class D felony.
Click for an overview of the Federal Whistleblower Laws .
More Arkansas Laws