The PROTECTED DISCLOSURES ACT 2000 protects you if you disclose information about illegal or harmful acts that are committed by your employer or by one of your co-workers. Employees who do this are sometimes referred to as "whistle-blowers".
If your disclosure of the information is covered by the Act, no-one can take any legal or disciplinary action against you. If your employer retaliates in some way at work, you can bring a personal grievance. Your protection against legal action also applies if you've already left the job at the time that you disclose the information.
You're protected by the Act if you disclose information about "serious wrongdoing" that's committed in or by the organisation in which you work. But you must believe on reasonable grounds that the information is true or likely to be true, and your reason for disclosing the information must be so that the wrongdoing can be investigated.
You're protected whether you work in the public or the private sector. The Act also applies to very small "organisations", such as an employer and a single employee.
You're not protected if you make allegations that you know are false or if you otherwise act in "bad faith".
"Serious wrongdoing" can be any of the following things:
You're protected by the Act only if you disclose the information to the people specified in the Act. You cannot simply disclose the information to anyone you choose. Whom you're required to go to depends on the circumstances:
(A public-sector organisation must have a set procedure to deal with disclosures of wrongdoing. It must publicise this procedure widely and regularly within the organisation.)
If your employer fires you for disclosing the information, or retaliates against you in some other way, you can bring a personal grievance on the ground of unjustified dismissal (see How to bring a wrongful dismissal claim against your employer) or unfair disadvantage (see How to bring a personal grievance against your employer).
Further, you cannot be charged with a criminal offence, you cannot be sued for damages in a civil Court action, and you cannot be subjected to any disciplinary action. These protections overrides any other law or any legal agreement you've entered into (such as your employment agreement).
If you're victimised for disclosing the information, or for encouraging someone else to disclose information, you can also complain to the Human Rights Commission (see How to complain about discrimination to the Human Rights Commission).
You can approach the Ombudsmen's office for advice if you're considering disclosing information of serious wrongdoing or if you've already disclosed it. You can contact them in person, by phone or by writing them a letter.
The Ombudsmen must give you guidance and advice on how the PROTECTED DISCLOSURES ACT 2002 works. They will also explain to you what the general role is of each of the different official authorities so that you can decide which authority to approach if necessary.
There are Ombudsmen in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Their contact details are as follows:
People to whom the information is disclosed must do their best not to release any information that might identify you, unless:
Your name can't be revealed through an official-information request (see How to make an official information request). The request must be refused if it would identify you.
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