Whistleblowing is a valuable activity employees should freely participate in, especially if it reveals severe violations or leads to crucial investigations. The United States government takes whistleblower protection seriously, establishing multiple agencies and policies to protect them.
Retaliation typically includes any employment action taken to cause adverse effects on a whistleblowing employee. It can happen in many ways, including the following:
- Layoffs or termination of employment
- Denial of privileges and opportunities
- Unreasonable disciplinary actions
- Turned down benefits
- Refusal to hire or rehire
- Workplace harassment or intimidation
- Explicitly threatening speech or behavior
- Reassignment to unfavorable job positions
- Adjusting salary or hours, reducing income
- Isolation and other subtle forms of bullying
- Illogically poor performance review findings
- Preventing the whistleblower from seeking other employment opportunities
- Workplace changes, making the environment intolerable for the whistleblower, so they would resign
- Using the whistleblower’s visa status to threaten them with deportation
These forms of retaliation could be unlawful, potentially resulting in additional violations under whistleblower protection laws. These provisions also extend to staffing agencies or clients who could retaliate on behalf of the employer. Employees should be familiar with these policies, allowing them to exercise their rights whenever needed.
Exercising whistleblower rights
Employees can report any form of retaliation, mainly if prompted by whistleblowing incidents. Many government agencies provide valuable resources to address these issues, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which can receive these complaints.
It is vital to remember that these complaints must meet specific conditions to maintain their validity, such as deadlines that vary based on the situation. Fortunately, OSHA provides multiple channels for filing complaints. Employees can also speak to OSHA or other legal professionals to learn more about their rights. Doing so can help determine possible options for approaching their whistleblower retaliation issues.