It is sad but true that not all employers act in the best interests of their customers, employees or even the environment. It takes courage for an employee to “blow the whistle” on any illegal activity that their employer participates in, because not all employers are receptive to their bad behavior being reported to a federal agency. In fact, many whistleblowers are wrongfully terminated for their good conscience, which is why the law protects those who take the high road.
A judge in Baltimore recently awarded a whistleblower $462,500 for his bravery in helping uncover intentional pollution committed by his employer. According to the judge, the employee not only reported the pollution but was instrumental during the investigation.
The investigation began when Coast Guard inspectors boarded a ship operated by Efploia Shipping Co. and owned by Aquarosa Shipping. While inspectors were on board, the low-level merchant marine officer slipped them a note that his employers were dumping waste and garbage into the port of Baltimore, beginning in 2011. During the investigation, the marine officer shared copies of the ship’s log and over 300 cellphone pictures of the illegal dumping.
The investigation ended with both the owner and operator pleading guilty and paying fines of $925,000 each. On top of the fines, the corporations were ordered to pay $275,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as a type of corporate community service. The money was earmarked to go to non-profit projects that help restore Maryland waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.
Any employee who wants to blow the whistle on illegal activity should feel like they can do so without fear of retaliation from their employer. When an employer does retaliate, there are attorneys experienced in employment disputes that can help them obtain the compensation they deserve.
Source: Baltimore Sun, “Judge awards whistle-blower $462,500 in high-seas pollution case,” Candus Thomson, April 18, 2012