How To Fight Back Against Retaliation for a Whistleblower Complaint
When the public learns of corruption within an organization, many people wonder why employees did not act sooner. However, whistleblower retaliation is a legitimate concern. It is fairly common for companies to punish someone for engaging in protected whistleblower activities. Sometimes, this behavior is sanctioned by top managers, who may even participate in it. Other times, managers or supervisors act independently and could even try to conceal their actions.
An experienced attorney can review your case to determine whether retaliation took place. If your attorney determines you have enough proof to move forward, he or she may also compare your case to past whistleblower retaliation settlements and help you determine how much you might receive for a successful case.
What Is Whistleblower Retaliation?
Whistleblowing occurs when an employee alerts the appropriate authorities about illegal or unethical practices an employer engages in. Contractors may also report companies, but they may not have the same protections as employees. These are some of the many activities employees may choose to report:
- Labor law violations
- Abuse of authority
- Safety concerns
When employers take action to punish employees for reporting these and other qualifying activities, this is retaliation. In some cases, the employer may also retaliate against people who cooperated with authorities during subsequent investigations or who volunteered evidence. There are also instances where managers do not engage in retaliation, but they fail to create an environment that sufficiently protects employees.
What Are Some Whistleblower Retaliation Examples?
Wrongful termination is often the first retaliation tactic that comes to mind. However, some employers often look for other ways of punishing an employee that may be more difficult to prove:
- Demoting the person to a lower position
- Cutting the individual’s hours
- Limiting advancement and enrichment at work
- Terminating other individuals involved in the case
- Creating or supporting the creation of a hostile work environment
- Making unreasonable demands not expected of other employees
How Should Victims of Whistleblower Retaliation React?
If you suspect that your employer or other workers are trying to punish you for doing the right thing, you may feel angry or frustrated. It is natural to feel this way, but it is also important not to allow this feeling to consume you. Otherwise, it can cause you to act in ways that may undermine your case. It could also cause the situation to escalate dangerously.
1. Remain Calm
The last thing you want to do is lose your patience and go off on a manager or another colleague. It may test your patience and self-control, but try to remain calm. Whether you need to leave the room or practice breathing exercises, find something that works for you. It is not uncommon for people in this position to seek therapy and request opportunities to work from home.
2. Gather Evidence
It will be difficult to prove retaliation to an attorney or in court without evidence, so collect whatever you can. When gathering evidence, it is important to do so quietly, because retaliation may become worse or you may suspiciously lose access to important records and notes you made. Even if you have nothing concrete, start by keeping a record of when things happen, who was present, what was said and what was done.
Sometimes, gathering evidence may involve asking other people to testify on your behalf. Prepare for some people refusing to do so because they fear facing whistleblower retaliation themselves.
3. Contact an Attorney
An experienced attorney can review the evidence provided to determine if your suspicion of retaliation is true and whether you have enough proof. Should you need additional evidence, your attorney may help you identify what that is and walk you through the process of securing it safely. In some instances, your attorney may be able to gather some of the evidence for you.
4. Review Policies
Your attorney may also assist you in reviewing the policies of the company and the relevant authorities. For instance, OSHA has its own form you can complete to report whistleblower retaliation. Each violation has varying time limits on how much time you have to report retaliation. Time limits generally range from 30 to 180 days.
5. Report the Incident
Your attorney may either walk you through the process of reporting the retaliation or may report it on your behalf. Some of these cases end up in court. Others may result in whistleblower settlements.
In many cases, employees are more concerned with returning to their positions under normal conditions than receiving payment. However, it is important to consider if working in that environment with the same people could ever feel normal or safe again.
Why Do Retaliation Victims Need To Work with an Experienced Local Lawyer?
Labor laws are incredibly complex and whistleblower laws can be even more so. Because of this, it is not a field you should attempt to navigate on your own. It is also important to note that while federal laws carry a lot of weight for whistleblower protections, some states have additional laws of their own. This is one reason working with a local attorney is important.
Whistleblower retaliation may also involve venturing into contract law. Employers may refer to agreements from the original employment contract as proof that they acted lawfully. Old quotas that have long been adjusted may be presented as evidence that the company’s decision was performance-based. An experienced attorney may review your contracts and help you preempt your employer’s actions.
Another reason to hire an attorney is to level the playing field. Your employer and its insurance company may put a team of lawyers on the case. Organizations often find this more appealing than paying a settlement. In many cases, the goal is to intimidate you. When you have your own attorney on the case, you receive the advice and preparation you need to better tackle the situation.
Do you need help finding a lawyer who will fight for your employment rights? Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!