Speaking up about wrongdoing at your workplace is often the right thing to do, but unfortunately, it sometimes comes with consequences. Employers sometimes retaliate against employees who act as whistleblowers, firing, demoting, or otherwise punishing them for making the company look bad. If your employer has retaliated against you for acting as a whistleblower on protected issues such as environmental violations or sexual harassment, they may have broken the law, and you could be entitled to significant compensation.
At Harman Law, we believe that whistleblowers who point out unlawful and abusive actions are doing a valuable service and making their workplace and society more just. That’s why we’re committed to fighting for whistleblowers who have been unfairly retaliated against by their employers. If you have faced unfair and unlawful treatment after speaking up as a whistleblower, our whistleblower lawyers can help you to hold your employer in the Greater Charlotte and Lake Norman areas accountable.
What is a whistleblower?
A whistleblower is anyone who speaks up about or alerts the authorities to some form of wrongdoing they’ve observed in the workplace. The conduct they’re blowing the whistle about can be anything from sexual harassment to dumping harmful toxic waste in a river. Whistleblowers speak out about such behavior in hopes that it will change and that all responsible parties will be held accountable for their actions. Some employers feel betrayed and embarrassed by whistleblowers and may punish them through firing, demotion, or other means. This is known as retaliation. There are protections for specific kinds of whistleblowers under both state and federal law.
Laws protecting Whistleblowers
U.S. and North Carolina law protect several specific categories of whistleblowers. Employees in these categories cannot legally be punished for speaking out against the unlawful or abusive behavior they’ve witnessed. Here are some of the major types of conduct employees have the right to blow the whistle on without fear of retaliation:
- Sexual harassment, employment discrimination, or any other federal Equal Employment Opportunity(EEO) violations
- Work safety hazards in violation of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
- Workers’ compensation claims
- Wage and hours violations under state and federal law
- Specific environmental hazards such as unlawful air and water pollution under federal law
- Defrauding the government as prohibited by the False Claims Act(FCA)
If you have spoken to upper management, alerted the authorities, or filed a claim regarding any of these types of conduct, your employer is legally prohibited from punishing you in any way. If you are uncertain whether the law protects your right to blow the whistle on a particular issue, an experienced North Carolina whistleblower lawyer from Harman Law can help you understand your legal protections.
What Retaliation Looks Like
For some whistleblowers, retaliation can take the visible and devastating form of being fired or demoted. For others, retaliation can be subtler. Here are some of the ways your employer might retaliate against you for acting as a whistleblower:
- Firing you
- Demoting you
- Cutting your pay
- Cutting your hours
- Cutting your benefits
- Changing your schedule to give you only the least desirable shifts
- Moving you to a different location
- Moving you to a different department
- Taking away all your meaningful work
If your employer has taken any of these actions against you for exercising your legally protected rights as a whistleblower, they may have engaged in unlawful retaliation, and you could potentially hold them liable and win significant financial compensation from them. If you are unsure whether the way your employer has treated you counts as retaliation, the whistleblower lawyers of Harman Law can help you determine whether you might have a case.
Bringing a retaliation claim against your employer
If you engaged in a form of whistleblowing that is protected under the law and your employer retaliated against you, you can bring a claim against them to hold them liable for retaliation. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may first file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or simply bring a claim against them with the help of your lawyer. To hold your employer liable, you will have to prove that:
- You engaged in a legally protected form of whistleblowing,
- Your employer knew or suspected that you did so, and
- They retaliated against you because of your whistleblowing.
Proving these points will require you to put together a strong case involving many intricate parts. An experienced North Carolina whistleblower lawyer can help you gather the proper evidence of your whistleblowing and your employer’s retaliation, find the exact point of law that your employer violated, and package it all in a convincing case. Your lawyer will also help you argue for the amount of compensation you deserve.
Recovering damages for whistleblower retaliation
Retaliation by your employer can cost you a great deal, both financially and emotionally. Thankfully, through a successful claim against your employer, you can recover damages for a number of costs, including:
- Money you lost as a result of the retaliation (wages, benefits, etc.)
- Interest on the money you’ve lost
- Reinstatement or re-promotion to your job, if practical
- Income you are likely to forego while looking for another, similar job, if you cannot practically return to your old one
- Liquidated damages equal to the amount of money you lost
- Attorney and court fees you spent fighting your claim
These damages can add up to a very significant amount of compensation, helping you to get back on track and move on with your life. An experienced North Carolina whistleblower attorney can help you determine what kinds of damages you might seek in your case.
Whistleblowers do their workplaces and societies a vital service, and they don’t deserve to be punished for doing so. If you have faced illegal retaliation from your employer after acting as a whistleblower, the Charlotte and Lake Norman whistleblower lawyersof Harman Law are ready to fight for you. For more information on how we can help, call us now at (704) 885-5550.