If you got fired or received discipline by your employer because you reported illegal behavior or exercised legal rights, you may have a basis for a wrongful termination case for whistleblowing or retaliation. There are laws that protect you from retaliation when you report legal, ethical or environmental wrongdoing. Learn what constitutes retaliation and what your rights are as a whistleblower.
What is retaliation?
Retaliation is any action taken by an employer to punish an employee for reporting misconduct or exercising workplace rights. For example, you might report an employer issue like safety hazards, harassment or failing to pay overtime. Your employer might retaliate by doing any of the following:
- Reducing pay
- Denying promotions, benefits or overtime
- Causing fear or intimidation
- Reducing workable hours assigned
You are protected from these punishments in many instances, including reporting workplace harassment, reporting workplace discrimination, reporting failure to pay minimum wage, reporting denial of breaks, taking legally protected leave, reporting health or safety violations or filing workers’ compensation claims.
What is whistleblowing?
In other instances, you might report illegal conduct that is not related to these workplace rights. This is known as whistleblowing. Some whistleblowing cases include reporting on an employer engaging in shareholder fraud, lying on tax returns or producing faulty products. You are legally protected to blow the whistle on illegal misconduct. Whistleblowing may also refer to instances where you refuse to take part in illegal activities, such as lying on your own corporate tax return.
How do I pursue a wrongful termination claim?
Some retaliation claims require you to file a report with a relevant government agency before suing. For example, you need to file with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration if you were terminated for reporting safety hazards. If you reported discrimination, you should file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Whether a filing is required, the claims process can be complicated. An attorney can help you build your case and understand the best options available.
Wrongful termination is a serious violation of employee rights and protections. If successful, your retaliation or whistleblowing claim may result in winning compensation for lost wages. Some cases result in punitive damages or damages for emotional or physical harm. Each case is different and it is best to consult with a wrongful termination attorney. A lawyer can give you legal counsel regarding the best claims strategy and how much you can expect to win in damages. Seek an attorney to represent your interests in your case.