Whistleblowers & Retaliation
A whistleblower is anyone with an organization who reveals unlawful, unsafe, or unethical behavior. Whistleblowing can include reporting bad behavior both within an organization and outside of an organization to law enforcement or the media. Generally speaking, whistleblowing hurts the employer, and so historically whistleblowers have faced retaliation for their honesty. For this reason, there are several laws and regulations in place that make it unlawful for employers to retaliate against whistleblowers in their organization.
What Retaliation Can Look Like
Retaliation is generally understood to be adverse actions against the employee who whistleblew on unlawful, unsafe, or unethical behavior. It can be subtle, but generally includes the following:
- Firing or laying off following whistleblowing activity.
- A demotion following whistleblowing activity.
- Denying overtime or promotion without basis.
- Unearned disciplining.
- The denial of benefits.
- Intimidation or harassment.
- Making threats.
- Excluding the employee in question from training and meetings that would set them up for future advancements.
- Reduction in pay or scheduled hours.
- Socially isolating and ostracizing the whistleblowing employee.
- Blacklisting or otherwise harming the employee in question’s future job prospects.
- Encouraging the employee to quit their position by making their workplace intolerable.
Retaliation is unlawful. If you believe you are being retaliated against following whistleblowing behavior, then you likely have grounds for a legal case.
An Example of Whistleblowing Followed By Unlawful Retaliation
In order to paint a picture, let’s take a look at a hypothetical whistleblowing/retaliation situation. Larry works for a restaurant that regularly serves expired food. He raised the issue internally to management, but they brush off his concerns and continue with their unsafe practices. Horrified at the prospect of making customers sick, Larry calls the local news channel who does an investigative report. Everyone at the restaurant figures out that it is Larry who calls the media, and they openly mock him for being so concerned. The following week, he receives his schedule and discovers that he is barely working at all. When he asks his manager about it, he is told that the restaurant “simply cannot trust him anymore”. In this situation, Larry is facing retaliation for reporting unsafe behavior.
If you believe you are facing retaliation following a whistleblow, contact us to discuss your situation. We may be able to represent you in your legal case.