Retaliation is one of the most significant concerns whistleblowers have when coming forward to report unethical behavior. Even though there are means of protection, employees may still harbor anxieties of being punished. They worry about their career, family and future.
It is against the law for an employer to retaliate against an employee, but that does not always stop them from doing so. However, there are actions that whistleblowers can take to protect themselves.
Common forms of retaliation
Since retaliation is against both federal and New York law, most employers will not retaliate in an obvious manner. Many times, the action is subtle to avoid a lawsuit, such as:
- Reducing hours
- Decreasing wages
- Denying benefits
However, some employers may be bolder than that. They might outright dismiss an employee, approach them with hefty payments or intimidate them into silence.
There are various measures the federal government has taken to protect whistleblowers. One of the main defenses employees have is the Whistleblower Protection Act. Established in 1989, the federal law specifically protects employees from retaliation if they:
- File a complaint
- Report fraud or legal violations
- Testify as a witness in court
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) investigates all claims of retaliation. If the OSC proves an employer's retaliation, employees could receive compensation for any or all discriminatory actions by an employer.
The Whistleblower Protection Act and other protective statutes give whistleblowers the right to file a complaint against an employer.
Despite all the protections whistleblowers have, it is still difficult to prove retaliation. It may be even more difficult to correlate the act of retaliation to the specific protected act of reporting. This is often due to how subtle the retaliations may be, as well as the protected privacy of the employee.
Regardless of the challenge, it is important to bring both unethical behavior and retaliation to justice. Whistleblowers are in a unique position to do just that. With the federal protections and the assistance of an experienced attorney, whistleblowers can pave the way to preserve fair trade practices.