Employees often know firsthand about their company’s business dealings, including any dishonesty or fraud. In the past, workers feared retaliation if they chose to bring attention to the corruption, so the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) helps enforce several laws to protect “whistleblowers.”
Whistleblowers report misconduct in an industry or even in their own workplace. Workplace retaliation against whistleblower activities, either from management or from other employees, is a violation of federal law.
The Whistleblower Act of 1989 prohibits retaliation against employees of government agencies who report agency misconduct. The Sarbanes–Oxley (SOX) of 2002 extends similar protections to accounting and investment firms.
According to the SOX law, employers can be fined or even imprisoned if they intentionally retaliate against a whistleblower who provided truthful information to law enforcement about a criminal offense. Retaliation can take many forms, including:
- Firing or laying off
- Denying overtime or promotion
- Denying benefits
- Workplace intimidation/threats
- Reducing pay or hours
SpongeTech Delivery Systems, Inc., a publicly traded New York company, was ordered to pay more than $30,000 in back wages to a former employee after they violated her whistleblower protection.
In November 2009, SpongeTech sent the employee to the Netherlands to present the company in a trade show. While researching for the event, she realized that the company had no sales in Europe, so a trade show was completely unnecessary.
The complainant was unjustly terminated in January 2010 after reporting her findings to company officials. At the time, SpongeTech was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for reporting fictitious sales and forging product orders to boost stock prices.
The woman filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA in April 2010. OSHA found her objections valid, ruling that her activities were protected under whistleblower provisions in the SOX law. Those activities led to her termination, so the company was ordered to pay the back wages.
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In cases of corruption or danger, workers are in a unique place to witness wrongdoing and demand a change. You are entitled to certain protections under whistleblower laws if you report illegal activities in your workplace.
If you feel like you were the victim of retaliation or unlawful termination, call Spevack Law Firm today. Our experienced workers comp attorneys know the law, and we can help you get justice.
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[Did You Know: The term “whistleblower” is based on the idea of a referee calling attention to illegal or foul play.]