Whistleblowers serve an important role in bringing the illegal actions of managers, executives, and companies to light. Without whistleblowers, many of the types of fraud and other wrongdoing by companies may go undiscovered. Unfortunately, blowing the whistle can result in serious consequences. Whistleblowers are frequently targeted for retaliation by their employers. The retaliatory actions may take several forms, including harassment, unfair treatment, and termination. When employers engage in retaliation against whistleblowers, they may be liable to pay damages. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler help whistleblowers who have been targeted for retaliation by their companies. Employees who are retaliated against for whistleblowing may also be entitled to other remedies, including reinstatement to their former jobs. An experienced employment lawyer at Swartz Swidler can help you to understand whistleblower retaliation and guide you through the process of filing a claim.
What is whistleblower retaliation?
Whistleblower retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse job action against an employee for engaging in a protected activity. Reporting a company for violating safety laws, abusing authority, engaging in fraud against the government, and other illegal conduct is protected.
Whistleblowers help the government by providing information about illegal activities by their employers that would otherwise be unlikely to be discovered. Because of this important role, the federal and state laws contain provisions that are designed to protect whistleblowers for doing the right thing. Whistleblower retaliation is viewed by most courts as violating public policy. There are also state and federal statutes that specifically prohibit retaliation against whistleblowers in certain types of claims.
Whistleblower retaliation examples
A classic type of whistleblower retaliation occurs when an employee reports his or her employer’s illegal conduct and is fired as a result. There are some cases in which retaliation isn’t as obvious, however. Employers may try to veil their actions by using pretextual reasons for terminating whistleblowers. Retaliation also doesn’t always include termination. It can include any type of adverse employment action or unfair treatment if it is taken to retaliate against the worker for whistleblowing. Some of the forms that whistleblower retaliation can take include the following:
- Creation of a hostile work environment
- Unfair disciplinary actions
- Denial of a promotion, bonus, or benefits
Whistleblower retaliation laws
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 provides important federal protections to whistleblowers. This law forbids employers from retaliating against whistleblowers who have acted in good faith in making reports. The protection exists even if the whistleblower’s report does not result in a finding of wrongdoing or a conviction. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act protects workers who report fraudulent conduct that they discover while working indirectly or directly for a publicly-traded company.
The Whistleblower Protection Act is another federal law that protects whistleblowers. This law covers federal workers and people who apply for federal jobs. Other federal and state laws protect whistleblowers. These laws depend on the jurisdiction, the industry, and the type of employment. One of these laws includes the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which applies to active duty military service members and veterans. The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act applies to workers who blow the whistle in New Jersey. Other laws protect whistleblowers. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler are experienced in handling whistleblower retaliation cases. We can talk to you about the situation that occurred and explain the laws that might apply to your potential claim.
Proving whistleblower retaliation
Most employers who have engaged in retaliatory actions against whistleblowers claim that they had valid reasons for taking adverse job actions against the workers. Since the courts are aware of these tactics, whistleblowers are frequently successful in arguing that the reasons the employers provide for the adverse actions were pretextual.
Workers who believe that their employers have retaliated against them for whistleblowing must show a causal link between the adverse job action and their whistleblowing. By gathering evidence of retaliation, whistleblowers may stand a better chance of prevailing with retaliation claims. The evidence may include direct evidence of the employer’s true motives or circumstantial evidence that helps to build a strong case. Some examples of circumstantial evidence might include the following:
- Timing of the adverse job action in relation to the whistleblowing
- Personnel records that suggest retaliation occurred
- Testimony from witnesses
- Memoranda and emails from the employer
- Employer notes from internal reviews
- Differential treatment of the whistleblower as compared to other workers
Talk to the experienced lawyers at Swartz Swidler
If you reported your employer’s illegal acts to a governmental agency and were subsequently targeted for retaliation, you should talk to an experienced lawyer at Swartz Swidler. If you have discovered evidence that your employer has engaged in a massive fraud scheme but are worried about the potential consequences that you might face for reporting it, you should also work with an experienced employment lawyer.
Whistleblower and retaliation cases are complex. Each case is unique, and many laws might apply. Because of the complexity of employment law, it is easy to make mistakes. Working with an attorney can help you to navigate through the complexities of the law and might allow you to recover statutory damages and rewards, job reinstatement, a promotion, and other remedies. The employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler can help you to understand the legal options and remedies that might be available to you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by filling out our contact form or calling us at 856.685.7420.