HomeFAQsRetaliationWhat Should I Do If I’m Facing Whistleblower Retaliation?

What Should I Do If I’m Facing Whistleblower Retaliation?

Whistleblower Retaliation - Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto LLP

Suppose you are facing whistleblower retaliation due to reporting fraud or misconduct. In that case, you should seek the assistance of a whistleblower attorney right away. Many employers retaliate against whistleblowers after they disclose information about misconduct, illegal activity, or abuse of power.

A whistleblower attorney can help determine what anti-retaliation protections are available to protect you and also determine if what you are reporting would qualify you for a monetary whistleblower reward. Additionally, if you suffered a retaliatory discharge, you may be eligible to receive damages.

If you have information about fraud or misconduct and have not yet reported it, keep quiet and contact a whistleblower attorney. Do not speak about your concerns with internal compliance or HR, as most of these departments exist to protect the company and their interests, not to address your concerns.

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Once retaliation has started, it’s challenging to stop, which is why retaining an attorney is necessary. Companies who commit fraud or misconduct may go out of their way to ruin your reputation, physically and emotionally isolate you, and turn everyone against you. An attorney can help protect you using available anti-retaliation laws.

Whistleblower Retaliation Examples

If you face whistleblower retaliation, you must recognize and understand what it looks like to avoid or stop it from occurring. Below are a few of the most common retaliation examples from our years of protecting whistleblowers:

  • Termination of contract – an employer may abruptly terminate your contractual relationship.
  • Forced relocation – without much notice, an employer may require you to relocate to an entirely different state or country.
  • Physical isolation – an employer may put you in an empty office where there are no other employees or access to the same amenities.
  • Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) – an employer may unjustifiably put you on a Performance Improvement Plan, regardless of your actual performance.
  • Pay Deduction – employers who retaliate may choose to reduce your salary or eliminate bonuses while pointing to poor performance as a reason for the deduction.
  • Social Ostracism – employers, will stain a whistleblower’s reputation by ascribing them humiliating names, labeling them promiscuous, and other forms of social and physical harassment.

According to a study from Bradley University professors published in the DePaul Business & Commercial Law Journal, over two-thirds of those who speak up will lose their jobs or be forced to retire—receiving negative performance reviews and being blocked from getting another job in their industry.

Whistleblower Retaliation Laws

Not every whistleblower retaliation law is the same. However, the strongest anti-retaliation provisions have been the ones found within the Dodd-Frank Act and other similar laws.

  • Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Retaliation: covers securities and commodities fraud whistleblowing. Its retaliation provisions make it illegal for any employer to discharge, demote, suspend, harass, or in any way discriminate against an employee in the terms and conditions of employment who has reported the conduct to the Commission that the employee reasonably believed violated the federal securities laws.
  • False Claims Act Anti-Retaliation Provisionscovers government contracting. The False Claims Act can mitigate retaliation by providing relief to whistleblowers who suffered retaliation.
  • OSHA Anti-Retaliation Provisions: covers 25 industry-specific statutes. OSHA makes it clear that employers may not discharge or otherwise retaliate against an employee because the employee has filed a complaint or exercised any other rights provided to employees by the statute.

There are over 50 laws permitting job protection or permitting you to obtain financial rewards governing almost every type of whistleblowing. We suggest you find federal and state whistleblower laws governing your industry to understand your protections and rights better.

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Given the vast number of whistleblower protection laws, it’s challenging to determine what type of law may apply to you. If you’re facing retaliation, we suggest you learn more about your rights as a whistleblower by reading Rules for Whistleblowers: A Handbook for Doing What’s Right (Lyons Press 2023). This is the lates book from founding partner Stephen M. Kohn, and is a comprehensive guide to preparing yourself for whistleblowing, qualifying for financial rewards, and protecting yourself.

Whistleblower Retaliation Lawsuit Settlements

Whistleblower retaliation lawsuit settlements and whistleblower reward orders are drastically different. If you’ve experienced retaliation, you may file for reinstatement, back pay, payment for lost benefits, special damages, attorney fees, expert witness fees, and costs. Recent or landmark retaliation lawsuit settlements include:

  • $650K Damages (June 22, 2022)
    Massachusetts contractor’s unlawful retaliation against an injured immigrant worker results in $600,000 in punitive damages and $50,000 in compensatory damages. (OSHA)
  • $958,000 in Damages (March 2, 2022)
    An aviation worker paid more than $898,000 in back wages, $50,000 in emotional damages, and $10,000 in attorney’s fees. (OSHA)
  • $1.4 Million Penalty (December 20, 2016)
    Oil and gas company to pay $1.4 million to a whistleblower who was retaliated against after raising concerns internally about how reserves were calculated. (SEC)

To go a step further, whistleblowers who report fraud or misconduct to a regulatory agency, such as the SEC or CFTC, may be eligible to receive between 10 and 30 percent of the sanctions against the fraudulent entity. The frauds could be in the millions, if not billions, of dollars.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Whistleblower retaliation occurs when a company takes adverse action against an employee for engaging in a “protected activity,” such as reporting fraud, misconduct, or a safety issue internally or externally to regulators. Adverse action by a company includes a myriads of “punishments,” such as termination, reduction in pay, immediate relocation, demotions, and being put on a Performance Improvement Plan. Luckily there are many federal and state laws that protect those facing whistleblower retaliation, and rewards for those who have information of fraud, misconduct, or corruption.

To prove whistleblower retaliation, you need to be able to show that your internal report management or compliance directly lead to retaliation, such as being terminated, relocated, harassed, or given absurd job responsibilities. Other forms of retaliation might be to put you on a Performance Improvement Plan, even though your work is more than satisfactory, or to reduce your annual pay and/or bonuses.

When looking for a whistleblower retaliation lawyer, you should evaluate them based on legal experience. This means evaluating them on the number of retaliation cases they’ve fought and won, their pro-bono involvement in amending laws and supporting whistleblower rights, their authoritativeness in the field of whistleblowing and retaliation, and the total number of active years in which they’ve been practicing law.

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