Whistleblowers and employer retaliation

Workers have been blowing the whistle on their employers for time immemorial. However, there hasn’t always been someone to listen or to care. 

These days, with famous whistleblower platforms like WikiLeaks, whistleblowing has been normalized, and even respected — but that may not stop an upset employer from retaliating.

What are some common alleged violations whistleblowers report?

Whistleblowing on unsafe, unfair, or unethical business practices often fall into one of the following categories: 

  • Environmental concerns: Practices that are harmful, irresponsible or illegal and violate environmental laws
  • Discrimination: Sexual harassment, race, color, age, sex, disability, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, parental status, marital status and more
  • Fraud: Government contracts, publicly traded companies and shareholders, collective bargaining with unions, political activities, wage theft and embezzlement

Whistleblowers are encouraged to make reports because they are protecting the interests of society as a whole.

What does retaliation look like?

Retaliation by employers adds insult to injury. Sadly, this is all too often the case with whistleblowers. Thankfully, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a “Whistleblowers Protection Program” that covers more than 20 federal laws. Whistleblowing can be the first battle in a long war. Employees that are considering blowing the whistle on their employers, sadly, must consider the potential cost of retaliation.  

Here is a shortlist of some common acts of retaliation that whistleblowers may suffer:

  • Demoted, fired, or laid off
  • Disciplined, reassigned, or denied promotion
  • Denied benefits
  • Decreased hours or denial of overtime
  • Intimidation, threats, or an unsafe workplace

Whistleblowers take the moral high ground, and it is considered an act of bravery. If you have suffered retaliation after filing a whistleblower claim, or are planning on whistleblowing, it is essential to seek legal counsel with experience to ensure that your rights are protected.  Preserving your reputation, career and future are important goals.