Those who alert authorities to illegal or unethical conduct in the workplace are known as "whistleblowers." While whistleblowers do have the ability to remain anonymous if they desire, it's not uncommon for names to be released, which could place the whistleblower themselves at risk of backlash, especially if the accused is in a direct position of power over them. So to encourage people to come forward, the Department of Labor has created a list of rights that are guaranteed to whistleblowers designed to protect them from these repercussions.
A whistleblower's rights are pretty simple: they are protected from any form of retaliation for their exposing of the illegal or unethical conduct. Retaliation can come in many different forms, including:
- Termination: Whistleblowers may not be fired or laid off because of their decision to expose wrongdoing in the workplace (an employee must show the evidence points to their termination being retaliatory). Furthermore, if an employee cannot be denied hiring or re-hiring as a result of their reporting conduct in the past.
- Blacklisting: Some employers will "blacklist" an employee who reports their conduct, making it impossible for them to work in their particular industry again.
- Demotion: Employees cannot have their work duties and salary reduced to a lower level as retaliation for reporting. This can include reducing pay or weekly hours, denying overtime, or refusing to give benefits.
- Harassment or intimidation: Employers and co-workers are forbidden from harassing or intimidating workers who expose illegal or unethical conduct, including making threats.
- Retaliatory discipline: Employers may not formally discipline employees who come forward with legitimate accusations of illegal or unethical conduct, placing permanent damage on an employee's ability to be hired or seek employment.
What to Do If Your Rights Are Violated
If you face discrimination, harassment, or any other consequence in the workplace as a direct result of your role as a whistleblower, you may hold your employer accountable. You may file a complaint with the United States Department of Labor within 30 days of the alleged reprisal. Filing can be done by mail or fax, online, or by phone.
You should also consider seeking counsel from a Dallas employment attorney who can protect your rights and work with you to demonstrate that the discrimination you have received came as a direct result of your whistleblower status.
Call The Hunnicutt Law Firm today at (214) 361-6740 to start protecting your rights and fight back against whistleblower discrimination or harassment!