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Law Offices of Dan A. Atkerson

What Happens When a Business Retaliates Against a Whistleblower?

By Dan Atkerson on October 26, 2015

National Origin DiscriminationChief Judge B. Lynn Winmill was quick to remind employers that the courts will not stand for workplace retaliation. In a recent Federal District Court case, Perez v. Sandpoint Gas N Go, a former employee was awarded $100,000 in punitive damages and another $980 in compensatory damages for lost wages.

In 2012, the former employee filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding poor safety standards in the workplace. The whistleblower brought a variety of alleged violations to the attention of OSHA, which then conducted a more in-depth investigation. The discoveries resulted in a number of citations for the company.

What Happened After Filing the Workplace Safety Violation Complaint?

Following the investigation and subsequent citations, the company fired the employee who filed the initial complaint with OSHA, in an act of apparent retaliation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protects whistleblowers and other employees from workplace retaliation.

Employers are prohibited from taking retaliatory action against employees that engage in protected activities such as filing a safety complaint with OSHA or a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC.

When a business retaliates against a whistleblower or other employee, it is illegal and will be taken very seriously by OSHA and the EEOC. Punitive damages, like the $100,000 awarded to the wrongfully terminated employee after they sued, are a strong reminder of that.

What Should You Do If Your Company Retaliates Against You?

If you have reason to believe that an employer is taking retaliatory action against you, speak to your supervisor. There is a chance it is unintentional. Ask for a specific reason as to why negative action is being taken against you. If they cannot or will not answer, contact an employment attorney as soon as possible. No employee should have to put up with workplace retaliation.

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