Can Employers Retaliate Against Whistleblowers?

Even though whistleblowing is often reported in the news, it is not always easy to understand what happens to the actual whistleblower. Many employees may fear whistleblowing because they do not know what position they will be in after they speak out. Today, there are more whistleblowers than ever due to the #MeToo movement. Employees became more willing to report what they saw. Harvard Business Review stated that whistleblowers are crucial to keeping firms healthy, since they can make companies and employers do better.

What is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing occurs when an individual reports misconduct that can result in violation of public trust, cause damage to public safety, and is prohibited by law. These individuals share classified or private information about an organization without being authorized to do so. Whistleblowers are usually motivated by public interest, and speak out to prevent or halt corruption, waste, fraud, and mismanagement. Whistleblowing originally applied to public servants who shared information about the government, but it now includes public and private employees.

Employers realize that whistleblower retaliation is against the law, but the practice still exists. Retaliation is any adverse action that the employer takes against the whistleblower once the complaint has been made. It may include demotions, firings, harassment, discrimination, poor work evaluations, pay cuts, and reassignments. This is why many dangers and law violations can go unreported, since employees fear these repercussions.

There are many laws in place that protect employees from employer retaliation. There are environmental laws, government regulations, health and safety laws, antidiscrimination laws, taxpayer-funded programs, and wage and hour protections. Whistleblowers are protected if they reasonably believe that there is proof of an abuse of power, gross waste or fraud, dangers to public health and safety, or gross mismanagement. Protection from retaliation applies to whistleblowers and any other parties who take part in a subsequent investigation.

Employee Protections

Whistleblowers are protected by law, no matter what their actual complaint is, so employers are advised to refrain from retaliatory actions. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees who participate in proceedings to enforce the law. The Act also protects employees who oppose unlawful discrimination. However, whistleblowers must have reason to feel that illegal activity occurred. These employees are protected from the moment they share the information. This could include refusing to carry out illegal activities, filing grievances, and alerting a manager about the issue. In some states, there are provisions that provide employers opportunities to correct issues first.

It is important for whistleblowers to remain calm when they are revealing information because acting out could impact protection. If an angry employee refused to perform work that they deemed illegal and then started a physical altercation with their manager, that employee could get fired without repercussions to the employer.

South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Protect Whistleblowers from Retaliation

Standing up to an employer’s illegal actions takes courage, and you should not be punished for doing the right thing. If you experienced employer retaliation, contact the South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. We specialize in these types of cases and are ready to help. Call 856-235-7075 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, and Cherry Hill.