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Defining retaliation in whistleblower cases

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2020 | Civil Litigation, Whistleblowers |

Whistleblowing is exceptionally prevalent in our current political climate. There are new headlines every day accusing President Donald Trump or other significant political figures retaliating against whistleblowers.

One of the most recent examples includes Dr. Rick Bright, a former director who led a team developing a vaccine to the current pandemic. Bright filed a whistleblower complaint against the Trump administration after the president removed him from his position.

The removal was prompted by Bright’s concerns surrounding medical supplies and other critical resources. However, Bright’s concerns were met with skepticism instead of action.

It makes other employees feel discouraged about blowing the whistle or express complaints about a specific issue. It begs the question of what employers can do for a response, and what is considered retaliation?

The fear of retaliation

According to the United States Department of Labor, retaliation happens when an employer or supervisor fires or takes adverse action against an employee who “engaged in a protected activity,” like whistleblowing.

Adverse actions include many different examples, such as:

  • Demoting
  • Denying overtime or promotions
  • Denying benefits
  • Excessive discipline
  • Failing to hire or rehire
  • Intimidation or harassment
  • Making threats
  • Reducing hours or pay
  • Chaing duties to include less desirable tasks
  • Blacklisting employee from other employment
  • Making working conditions so unbearable that the worker is forced to quit

These are only the most relevant actions. There are several more actions, including termination, that fall under retaliation.

It’s important to note that retaliation is illegal on the federal level. Hence, whistleblowers have the option to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and explain how your actions fell under your protected rights.

Whistleblowers shouldn’t feel ashamed or discouraged to step forward. They are a critical part of keeping companies and governments accountable when fraud happens within the system. Make sure to take action if action is necessary.