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Employer retaliation against whistleblowers

Workplace retaliation is a serious concern, especially for employees who speak up about wrongdoing, also known as whistleblowers. When employees report illegal or unethical behavior within their company, laws protect them from retaliation.

However, some employers may still try to punish or mistreat them in various ways. Proving this mistreatment is challenging, but whistleblowers may be able to file legal claims against the employer.

Types of retaliation

There are several ways employers might retaliate against whistleblowers. One common form of retaliation is termination or demotion. Employers may fire or demote whistleblowers as a way to silence them and discourage others from speaking up. They might also cut hours from the worker’s schedule or change their work shift.

Another form of retaliation is harassment or discrimination. Employers may subject whistleblowers to unfair treatment, such as giving them undesirable tasks, excluding them from meetings or making derogatory comments about them.

Some employers may also retaliate by creating a hostile work environment. This can include spreading rumors or gossip about the whistleblower, isolating them from coworkers or making them feel unwelcome in the workplace.

Employers may want whistleblowers to quit

Although laws protect whistleblowers, many companies do not want these employees to continue working for them. Employers may use retaliatory tactics to make employees so dissatisfied that they resign from the company because:

  • It saves the company from paying unemployment benefits or severance packages.
  • It maintains a better reputation for the company, as firing employees can reflect poorly on their image.
  • This may be a less confrontational approach, reducing workplace tension and preserving morale among remaining employees.
  • It allows the company to control the narrative, as employees who quit may not speak out about their experiences as vocally as those whom companies fire.

Employers may hope that whistleblowers are unaware of their rights.

Documenting retaliation

Whistleblower employees can document retaliation in several ways to protect themselves. They can keep a detailed record of incidents, including dates, times and descriptions of what happened. Emails, memos or other written communications showing mistreatment can also be evidence.

Additionally, keeping copies of performance evaluations or any sudden changes in job responsibilities can help demonstrate retaliation. Witnesses who can corroborate the retaliation can provide validation.

Documenting retaliation strengthens the whistleblower’s case if they need to report it to higher authorities or seek legal action to defend their rights and integrity in the workplace.

Do not stand for retaliation

Workplace retaliation involving whistleblower claims is a serious issue that can have far-reaching consequences. However, employees have options to seek justice.

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