When people work for an employer they admire, chances are they hope to have a positive experience and without hazards, threats to their career or safety, or discriminatory behavior. Unfortunately, there are situations where an employer acts illegally or unprofessionally, with negative consequences for the customers, investors, and employees.
Employees who witness illegal behavior usually have the right to report such activity to a higher-up, or to the government. Ideally, the employer should conduct an investigation of the questionable behavior and take immediate actions to stop it. However, there are situations where the employer will retaliate against the whistleblower who reported or protested illegal conduct, even though they attempted to do the right thing by reporting this conduct to their employer.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, retaliation by an employer following an employee’s decision to report illegal behavior can be can be illegal, depending upon the nature of the conduct and the employer’s corporate status. Some discriminatory acts include the following:
- An employer demotes, lays off or fires the alleged whistleblower.
- An employer withholds or ceases to pay bonuses, commissions or wages.
- An employer denies benefits or options to work overtime.
- An employer makes a less desirable reassignment of the employee, suspends the ability to work and implements disciplinary actions.
There exists a wide range of federal and state laws, along with common-law claims, that can protect whistleblowers against retaliation for having reported illegal conduct. These laws attempt to ensure that even after whistleblowers have reported information, they should be able to continue to work for their employer without experiencing fear of retaliation.