One of the areas where litigation can pop up in employment law is when an employee is subjected to unfair treatment as a result of reporting unethical or illegal activities in the workplace. Legal protections do exist for employees who take steps to expose wrongdoing, and it is important for employees to be aware of their rights.
A whistleblower lawsuit was recently filed in California against Starkey Hearing Foundation, a non-profit associated with the Minnesota-based hearing aid manufacturer Starkey Laboratories Inc., in connection with the termination of an employee last April. According to the employee, the termination occurred because she voiced concerns over the nonprofit’s overestimating of the number of devices given to charity, its failure to use qualified medical providers, and conflicts of interests. Among the concerns was that the questionable activity would put the company’s nonprofit status in jeopardy.
Whatever the nature of the former employee’s concerns, she ended up reporting them to high-ranking executives within the organization. She claims that she was criticized for “stepping out of line” and fired several weeks later. Her superior claimed the termination was “for performance reasons” rather than for voicing concerns
Workplace retaliation can occur for a variety of reasons and can involve a variety of adverse actions on the part of the employer. One common reason for retaliatory action is discrimination. Employees who believe they have been subjected to adverse treatment on the job due to discrimination should work with an experienced attorney to ensure their rights are protected. In our next post, we’ll look at other potential grounds for retaliation, both at the state and federal level.