Occasionally, a whistleblower will disclose information about allegedly illegal or unethical conduct by their employers against the public or the government. After an investigation by the appropriate government agency, a violation is not found. When whistleblowers report their employers for conduct that they thought was illegal, but no violations are found, they might worry about what might happen to them. If you are in this situation, the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler are available to help.
A whistleblower is someone who reports illegal, non-public conduct at their jobs. The types of conduct that might be reported by whistleblowers include shareholder fraud, tax fraud, accounting fraud, health care fraud, and workplace safety violations.
Employers are forbidden from firing employees because they have blown the whistle about illegal activities. Multiple state and federal laws protect whistleblowers explicitly. Employees also have the right to sue their employers for wrongful terminations that violate public policy in many states.
What happens if you were wrong about the conduct that you reported?
While whistleblowers are protected from retaliation by their employers, you might be concerned about whether you are protected when an investigation reveals that your employer did not violate the law. As long as you had a good-faith belief that your employer had engaged in the violations that you reported, you are still protected against retaliation. However, if you filed a report about allegedly illegal conduct for which you did not have a good-faith belief, the protections against retaliation in the whistleblower laws will not apply to you.
What happens if your employer fired you for trying to blow the whistle?
If you were terminated from your job after an investigation found no illegal conduct by your employer, you might be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. You will need to show that you had a good-faith belief that the conduct you reported was illegal. Here is some information about how you can pursue a retaliation claim.
Meeting with your attorney
Working with an experienced whistleblower and retaliation attorney at Swartz Swidler is important. These types of claims can be legally complex. One of our employment lawyers can help you to determine whether you have a valid claim based on a violation of public policy or a statute.
Before you attend your consultation, make a timeline of what happened, including what caused you to file your report, when you filed your complaint, and the outcome. You will want to bring information about why you believed your employer had engaged in illegal conduct. You will also need to show evidence that your termination happened because of your complaint. Your attorney can review and analyze the facts and explain the legal merits of your potential claim.
Filing a retaliation claim
Depending on your claim, you might be required to file a complaint with a government agency before you can file a complaint in court. For example, if you were fired for making a report under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, you will have to file a complaint with OSHA before you can file a complaint in court. Some types of retaliation claims may be filed directly in court without having to go through an administrative process. Your attorney can explain the process that your claim will need to go through.
What types of damages might be available in a retaliation claim?
The damages that might be available to you will depend on the facts of your case. Some common types of damages that an employee might ask for in a retaliation claim include the following:
- Back pay
- Front pay or reinstatement
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Court costs and attorneys’ fees
Depending on the circumstances, you might be able to recover pain and suffering damages. If your employer’s conduct was particularly egregious, you might also be able to recover punitive damages.
Will you get in trouble with the agency if no violation is found?
When you file a complaint with a federal agency about allegedly illegal conduct by your employer, the agency will investigate. You may be interviewed about your report and how you obtained the information. You will also be asked to provide the agency with as much information as you can to support your claim, including documents, dates, names, and other things that you believe would substantiate your claims.
After reviewing your information, the agency might either decide to investigate further or determine that there is no reason to do so. If the agency decides against investigating your claim, you will not be in trouble with the agency.
As long as you came forward with good intentions and did not make a false report in bad faith, you will not need to worry about legal ramifications. You should also be aware that your employer might retaliate against you. However, if your employer does so, you can file a retaliation complaint.
Get help from a whistleblower and retaliation attorney
If you filed a complaint in good faith about your employer’s conduct but subsequently learned that you were wrong, you should not have to worry about retaliation. Unfortunately, however, some employers will engage in retaliation against workers who file reports about allegedly unlawful conduct. If your employer has engaged in retaliation against you for filing an incorrect report about illegal activities at your company, you may have legal rights. Contact an experienced retaliation and whistleblower attorney at Swartz Swidler today to learn more about the legal options that might be available to you. We can be reached at (856) 685-7420 and offer free and confidential consultations.