If a business retaliates against a worker who reports wrongdoing, the employer’s actions may be the basis of a retaliation lawsuit. Whether the retaliation involves subtle on-the-job discrimination, a hostile work environment or wrongful termination, it is against the law.
When an employee has access to information about wrongdoing by their employer, it is understandable if the worker is reluctant to come forward with the information for fear of being punished, or even fired, by their bosses. Sometimes the information involves workplace safety issues; other times, the information is extremely sensitive and involves a company’s scheme to commit fraud against the government. Regardless of the nature of the wrongdoing, it is important for workers to understand that they are protected by both federal and state laws when it comes to reporting that wrongdoing to their employers.
Reporting Workplace Safety Issues
You should not feel compelled to take part in a work activity that harms the public health, safety, welfare or the environment. Perhaps your conscience dictates that you need to go even further and report the potentially harmful activity.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that enforces federal laws governing work conditions for private sector employees and federal government employees. In New Jersey, businesses are also regulated by the NJ Division of Public Safety and Occupational Safety and Health, which enforces state laws and ensures that companies maintain safe and healthful working conditions.
Unfortunately, some employers put profits ahead of worker safety, resulting in serious work-related injuries, illnesses and other health problems for employees. In the worst cases, employer negligence can result in wrongful death. Workers who become aware of workplace safety issues, possibly brought on by violations of federal and/or state laws, have every right to report those issues to their employers.
Workers Are Protected against Retaliation for Reporting Violations of the Law
One of the best ways to hold companies accountable for their failures, and compel compliance in the future, is to report negligence or fraud. If your employer retaliates against you for doing so, they may be civilly liable. Wal-Mart recently learned that the hard way when they were sued by a former employee.
The employee in the case worked as a pharmacist at a New Hampshire Wal-Mart for 13 years – until she was fired for reporting illegal actions by co-workers who were illegally dispensing prescriptions, violating federal privacy laws and raising health concerns.
Now the former pharmacist has been awarded more than $31 million in damages because her employer retaliated against her. Although the worker’s lawsuit involved a gender discrimination claim, the jury also cited the company’s retaliatory conduct as a major reason for the large damages award.
For more information about this employment retaliation case, read the NY Daily News article, “Wal-Mart Whistleblower Pharmacist Wins $31 Million after Getting Fired for Reporting Safety Concerns.”
If you have knowledge of fraud or other violations of the law being perpetrated by your employer, you should be able to report the wrongdoing. One of the best ways to protect yourself before coming forward is to talk to a qualified employment law attorney. Contact the experienced employment discrimination and qui tam lawyers at Begelman & Orlow, P. C. today to discuss your options.