Afraid to Blow the Whistle? Protecting Employees Against Retaliation

Reporting your employer for unfair employment practices, such as unfair hiring, firing, or other employment practices, or harassment is often a stressful and emotional experience. If you are concerned about retaliation from your employer due to your reporting of unfair employer practices, that fear can add another layer of stress to this experience.

If you have experienced retaliation in the workplace, you are not alone. In fact, retaliation claims were the most common type of claim filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2018. Over 51 percent of all claims filed in 2018 with the EEOC, involved allegations of retaliation in the workplace. That is over 39,400 individual employees who filed a retaliation claim against their employer in the United States in 2018 alone.

Fortunately, there are laws at both a state and federal level which protect employees from retaliation. If you believe that you are being retaliated against or you are afraid to report unfair employment practices due to the possibility of retaliation, you should make sure that you know and fully understand what workplace retaliation is and the laws which protect you from it. 

What does it mean to “blow the whistle” on an employer?

A whistleblower is an employee who provides information to a government or law enforcement agency regarding their employer with the intention of involving the outside agency to investigate and correct or discipline unfair practices used by the employer. This may include information regarding unlawful hiring, firing, or other employment practices, unsafe employment conditions, or a violation of a federal or state law. An employee can also “blow the whistle” within the company by reporting these concerns to another employee who has the power to investigate the allegation and discipline the perpetrator.  

What is retaliation?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, retaliation in the workplace is any punishment of an employee or adverse employment action by his or her employer because the employee reported employment discrimination, harassment, or other unfair and unlawful practices in the workplace. Reporting an employer for certain things is considered a “protected activity,” which means that it is unlawful for employers to retaliate in any way against an employee for taking these actions.

These actions include but are not limited to:

  • Filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
  • Reporting employment discrimination to a supervisor or manager;
  • Answer questions asking during an investigation brought against the employer;
  • Opposing sexual advances in the workplace or intervening to protect another employer;
  • Requesting a reasonable accommodation due to a protected disability or a religious practice;
  • Asking questions about salary information because you believe there are potentially discriminatory wage concerns within the company.

If you have been involved in one of these “protected activities” and then abruptly began experiencing a serious and negative workplace environment shift or adverse treatment, you may be experiencing retaliation. Examples of retaliation may include being fired, demoted, receiving an unfair employee review, witnessing false rumors about yourself circulating throughout the company, your employer purposefully attempting to make your work more difficult, such as changing work schedules when family situations or other obligations make it difficult or even impossible to adhere to your new schedule, or threats to your physical, mental, or emotional safety or job security.

 What laws protect me from retaliation?

There are a variety of laws, both at the state and federal level, which protect employees like yourself from retaliation in the workplace as a result of being involved in a “protected activity”. These laws provide that your employer legally cannot punish you for reporting unfair employment practices aimed against yourself or others. Even if you report these unlawful practices and your actions do not lead to any legal action against your employer or the alleged perpetrator was found innocent, you are shielded from retaliation, as long as you filed the claim in good faith.

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 provides legal protection to employees in the United States who “report waste, fraud, abuse of authority, violation of law, or threat to the public.” This allows employees to be honest and hold employers accountable without fear of retaliation, such being demoted or losing their job altogether.

I’ve been retaliated against in the workplace. What do I do next?

If you have been or are being retaliated against in the workplace for “blowing the whistle” regarding an unfair practice in the workplace, you should understand your rights as a whistleblower. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you in this way and you have a right to a physically, emotionally, and mentally safe place of employment.

While it may be tempting to file a workplace retaliation claim yourself instead of hiring an employment law attorney, this decision may cost you your case. Pursuing a retaliation claim against your employer requires a strong factual basis and a thorough understanding of whistleblower protection laws and other laws which your employer may have violated. Without this, you may not get the justice you are seeking. Hiring legal representation who is educated, experienced in the area of employment law, and passionate about your case gives you peace of mind that your case and your future is in trustworthy and capable hands. He or she will be able to advise about whether you have a viable case and will be able to work on your behalf to bring about the best possible outcome.

Do not allow your employer to take advantage of you. Hire an educated, experienced, and passionate workplace retaliation attorney to help guide you through this process of filing a claim against your employer.

At V. James DeSimone Law, we believe that you deserve justice and your employer must be held accountable for their unfair practices in the workplace. Our legal team is backed by 30 years of experience and our attorneys have handled countless whistleblower cases. We know how to help you build a strong case against your employer and we will work tirelessly to protect your rights every step of the way. Contact us today at (310) 693-5561 for a consultation of your case.

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