Retaliation / Whistleblower Protection Laws
It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for engaging in what is known as “protected activity.” Our lawyers have represented hundreds of individuals who were subjected to unlawful retaliation, and some of Wigdor’s largest settlements and verdicts have resulted from cases involving retaliation.
Anti-retaliation laws prohibit retaliation against those who engage in “protected activity,” such as complaining about discrimination in the workplace. “Protected activity” is an employee’s good faith complaint that they or someone else has been discriminated against based on an unlawful reason, which can include actions opposing discriminatory conduct, like helping an individual who filed a complaint. To be clear, a retaliation plaintiff does not have to prove that the underlying discrimination actually occurred, but that they had a good faith belief that discrimination occurred.
Retaliation can take the form of any action that would dissuade a reasonable employee from engaging in protected activity. This could include subjecting an employee to termination, demotion, a failure to promote, a reduction in compensation, an unfavorable transfer or a hostile work environment, as well as actions intended to stop employees from making complaints. Post-termination retaliation also is against the law.
Whistleblower Protection Laws
A whistleblower has the courage to report what they believe is unlawful conduct by their employers, colleagues or clients. Wigdor has handled dozens of whistleblower cases, helping to define the scope of protected whistleblower activity. Our lawyers also counsel individuals and employers in matters involving whistleblower reports and investigations.
There are various whistleblower protection laws. At the federal level, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and Dodd-Frank Act protect employees reporting fraud or violations of securities laws or other legal requirements either to the SEC or within their organization, depending on the law. Many states, including New York and New Jersey, have much more expansive whistleblower protection laws that protect individuals from retaliation for reporting any sort of unlawful conduct.
A qui tam action allows individuals to sue on behalf of the government and recover money fraudulently obtained by a person or corporation, such as fraudulent Medicare charges. These employees may be protected from retaliation as whistleblowers.
These actions are brought under the False Claims Act, which protects whistleblowers with evidence of fraud being committed against government programs or contracts. Suits must be filed within six years from the date of the violation, or three years after the government knows or should have known about the violation.
If you believe you have been the victim of unlawful retaliation in the workplace, or if you are considering making a whistleblower claim against your employer, you should consult with an experienced retaliation lawyer. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and options, including qui tam actions and whistleblower protections. They can also represent you in a legal action if necessary.