Adverse job consequences for having complained about, opposed, reported or refused to take part in unlawful activity in the workplace.
A whistleblower is traditionally defined as “a person who informs on another or makes public disclosure of corruption or wrongdoing.” Obviously, whistleblowers play an important role in exposing clandestine fraud and/or illegalities, thereby limiting their impact and preventing unnecessary harm to innocent victims. If you are a whistleblower within a company you may feel a moral obligation to report wrongdoing, even if the wrongdoers are your co-workers or, even more troubling, your superiors, but you of course are legitimately afraid of retaliation. Such retaliation at a minimum may consist of being ostracized within the company and ultimately pressured to leave your position (by means of subtle or not very subtle suggestions that you should look for a new job). Beyond that there’s the worry about being blackballed in your professional field. Certain professions (medical professionals, salespersons, financial advisors, etc.) are a tight knit group within a geographic region and word can spread quickly about a company informant who is not a “team player” and thus someone not to be trusted with future job offers lest he or she continue to “snitch” on their later employers.
These consequences would likely stifle internal corporate whistleblowers from ever coming forward in the first place. So, in the interest of encouraging whistleblowers to speak up, both federal law and the laws of many states provide extensive protections for employees who either refuse to take part in illegal activities or report such illegal conduct either internally or externally. The Federal Sarbanes Oxley law and California Labor Code Section 98.6 and 1102.5 are just examples of some of the anti-retaliation statutes in effect. They make it illegal for an employer to terminate or take other adverse action against an employee who complains of illegal conduct in the workplace, reports such illegal conduct to outside authorities or refuses to engage in such illegal conduct.
Furthermore, there are several practical considerations to take in advance just in case an employee whistleblower later becomes the victim of a retaliatory termination or demotion because he/she dared to speak up and speak out against his/her employer. It is important to protect yourself as a whistleblower just as you are taking the brave step of trying to protect your community and the general public by speaking out in the first place.
Following these steps can make a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit, if one is ultimately necessary, stronger and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. If you would like to learn more please contact me for further information.