Utah Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower laws as they apply to the state of Utah

A Summary of Utah Whistleblower Laws

Utah is an employment-at-will state. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, there are a few exceptions to this doctrine that are used to protect employees from wrongful retaliation. These exceptions include common law protections and statutory protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation, whereas common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address subject areas that are not covered by enacted laws.

This is a summary of Utah Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Utah

Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in Utah

Utah has a public policy that is applied as an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. Therefore, it is illegal for employers to discharge an employee for reasons that violate public policy. To determine whether an employee is eligible for protection under the state’s public policy, the courts usually rely on statutory protections, constitutional provisions, and prior judicial opinions. For example, if a statute endorses a worker’s right to collect a wage not less than the minimum wage, an employer who discharges an employee in retaliation for exercising such a right may be found guilty of violating public policy. Generally, Utah protects employees who engage in the following activities from wrongful discharge:

  • Exercising a legal right or privilege.
  • Refusing to carry out illegal activities.
  • Carrying out a public obligation.

Employees who report illegal activities can only be protected if the report is made to public officials and not to internal supervisors.

Statutory Protections for Whistleblowers in Utah

Public Employees Act

Employers are not allowed to take any adverse action against a public employee in retaliation for:

  • Reporting in good faith waste or misuse of public funds, property, or manpower.
  • A violation or suspected violation of a federal or state law, rule, or regulation.
  • Reporting gross mismanagement, abuse of authority, or unethical conduct by a state government employer.

Employees are required to formally notify a person in authority over the person alleged to have engaged in the conduct or violation, the attorney general’s office, law enforcement, or any other appropriate authority. Also, employers are not allowed to take any adverse action against a public employee in retaliation for:

  • Participating or giving information in an investigation, hearing, court proceeding, legislative or other inquiry, or other form of administrative review held by a public body.
  • Objecting to or refusing to carry out a directive that violates a state or federal law, rule, or regulation.

Also, employers are not allowed to adopt rules or policies that prevent employees from documenting the conducts mentioned above. Utah Code Ann. § 67-21-3.

Discrimination

It is against the law for an employer to take any adverse action against an employee or individual in retaliation for:

  • Opposing discriminatory practices prohibited under this statute.
  • Filing a charge under this statute.
  • Testifying or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this statute.

Under this statute, discrimination in employment based on race, color, sex, pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related conditions, age if the individual is 40 years of age or older, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity is prohibited.

Utah Code Ann. §§ 34A-5-102(1)(y), 34A-5-106(1)(a).

Occupational Safety and Health

No person is allowed to discharge or in any way retaliate against an employee for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting or causing the institution of a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Exercising a right afforded by this statute on behalf of himself, herself, or others.

Utah Code Ann. § 34A-6-203(1).

Payment of Wages

Employers are not allowed to discharge, demote, alter terms of employment, or in any way retaliate against an employee for:

  • Filing a complaint or testifying in a proceeding related to the enforcement of this statute.
  • Intending to file a complaint or intending to testify in a proceeding related to the enforcement of this statute.
  • Believing that the employee may file a complaint or testify in a proceeding related to the enforcement of this statute.

Utah Code Ann. § 34-28-19(1).

Employment of Minors

Employers are not allowed to discharge or threaten an employee in retaliation for testifying or intending to testify in an investigation or proceeding under this statute or because the employer believes the employee may testify in an investigation or proceeding under this statute. Utah Code Ann. § 34-23-402(2)(g).

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Utah

Unless stated otherwise by statute, lawsuits based on statutory protections should be filed within 3 years of the retaliatory action. Lawsuits based on common law protections should be filed within 4 years of the retaliatory action.

Public Employees Act

Complaints under this act should be filed with the Career Service Review Office.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Utah Labor Commission, Antidiscrimination & Labor Division (UALD) within 180 days of the retaliatory action.

Occupational Safety and Health

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Utah Labor Commission, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (UOSH) within 30 days of the retaliatory action.

Payment of Wages

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Utah Labor Commission, Antidiscrimination & Labor Division (UALD).

Whistleblower Hotlines in Utah

To file a complaint with the Utah Labor Commission, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, call (801) 530-6494 or (801) 530-6437.

To file a complaint with the Utah Labor Commission, Antidiscrimination & Labor Division, call (801) 530-6801.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following remedies:

  • Reinstatement to the employee’s former position.
  • Payment of back wages.
  • Reinstatement of full benefits.
  • Full reinstatement of other employment rights.
  • Attorney’s fees.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

Public Employees Act

Employers who violate this act may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Reinstatement to the employee’s former position.
  • Payment of back wages.
  • Reinstatement of full benefits.
  • Full reinstatement of other employment rights.
  • If the retaliatory action involves denial of promotion, the employee may be awarded a pay rise that he or she would have received if not for the retaliation.

Discrimination

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Reinstatement.
  • Back pay and benefits.
  • Attorney fees.
  • Legal costs.

If the retaliatory action involves matters of compensation, the aggrieved employee may be awarded an additional amount that is equal to the back pay.  Also, the employer may be ordered to cease any discriminatory practice or prohibited employment practice.

Employment of Minors

Employers who violate this statute may be found guilty of a class B misdemeanor. Also, the employer may be liable for a penalty not exceeding $500 per violation.

Occupational Safety and Health

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • A cease and desist.
  • Reinstatement to the employee’s former position with back pay.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

Payment of Wages

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • A cease and desist.
  • Payment of lost wages and benefits.

More Utah Laws

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *