Retaliation in the Workplace

Most people are not aware that there are laws in place to protect us from retaliation in the workplace, including anti-retaliation sections under the state and federal False Claims Acts:

(1) In general. Any employee, contractor, or agent shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make that employee, contractor, or agent whole, if that employee, contractor, or agent is discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment because of lawful acts done by the employee, contractor, agent or associated others in furtherance of an action under this section or other efforts to stop 1 or more violations of [the False Claims Act].

This means that employers cannot punish employees for making complaints of fraud (internally or to the Government) or for participating in investigations of fraud, or else they may subject themselves to liability under the False Claims Act. Other anti-retaliation statutes exist as part of Dodd-Frank, OSHA, FLSA, public employee whistleblower statutes, and Sarbanes-Oxley, all designed to protect you when you discover and report wrongdoing.

Sometimes it can be obvious that you have been retaliated against for reporting fraud. You may be fired, demoted, or your position may be eliminated. Sometimes the retaliation may not be so obvious or may occur months later. You may be excluded from staff meetings or other office gatherings. You may be overlooked for promotions or pay increases. Maybe you get moved from day to night shift or your hours are severely cut and in turn you are forced to find another job. Regardless of the methods, your job should not be negatively affected after reporting fraud.

If you do elect to make a complaint of fraud or any other wrongdoings to your employer, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself against retaliation: 

  1. KEEP A JOURNAL with dates and details of odd behaviors, comments, schedule changes, and anything that feels out of the ordinary. It is important for you to document events leading up to and following your complaint. It is very difficult to try and remember the events once time has passed. By keeping a journal you will not need to rely on your memory.
  2. TELL YOUR EMPLOYER you think you are being retaliated against. Once it has been brought to his/her attention, the misconduct might end. Be sure and document the discussion in your journal.
  3. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY, specifically an attorney that specializes in employment law, fraud, and retaliation claims like Bracker & Marcus LLC. You may have a retaliation claim against your employer if these actions ultimately affect your livelihood. However, it is best to do this before reporting the fraud so that counsel can guide you to say the right things to save your job or preserve your claim.

The laws against retaliation in the workplace are there for a reason. They offer protection to those willing to report inappropriate behaviors or fraudulent activities of employers or fellow co-workers without fear of punishment. Doing the right thing should always be rewarded, not punished.