The Whistleblower Protection Act expressly outlaws retaliatory measures being taken against those federal employees who act as whistleblowers, meaning they make the brave decision to expose internal problems and/or highlight possibly fraudulent practices.
When employees are brave enough to come forward to report misconduct on the part of management or fellow employees in the interests of protecting the organization, they deserve to be commended for their courage and honesty. Unfortunately, this isn't always what happens and employees who take this step may find themselves demoted or, even worse, terminated.
If you’re suspicious that something unlawful is going on in your workplace, you may have wondered whether it would be a good idea to secretly record phone calls or conversations in order to gather evidence before blowing the whistle. If you work in Minnesota, you absolutely should not do so without first talking to an attorney.
Two housekeeping workers have filed a lawsuit against a Kaiser hospital in California and its contract cleaning service, claiming they were fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on unsanitary conditions that affected both workers and patients. The women were targeted not only as whistleblowers, they say, but also because they had filed workers’ compensation claims. Employer retaliation for either of those reasons by federal law and by the laws of both California and Minnesota.
It doesn’t appear that the shutdown of the federal government that began on Tuesday is likely to end quickly, that that could cause some headaches for workers. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Labor has had to put more than 80 percent of its workforce on furlough, leaving only 2,954 Labor Department employees on the job nationwide. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a division of the Labor Department, and its workforce has been cut even more deeply -- to 5 percent of its usual size. That means a total of 107 people are currently on staff at the EEOC.
For physicians, achieving a board certification in their medical specialty often isn’t the result of additional training undertaken to bring prestige to their practices. In many areas, board certification is either required to practice at all, or in order to achieve affordable malpractice insurance. For dermatologists, apparently, certification is the final exam, so to speak, just as bar membership is for practicing attorneys. When dermatologists fail the certification exam -- or are later expelled by the board -- they must repeat their medical residencies, according to a recent federal lawsuit.
Last year, two fired deans from Globe University / Minnesota School of Business filed unlawful discharge lawsuits claiming that they had been fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on misleading practices and ethical issues at the for-profit colleges. Under both Minnesota and federal law, employers are prohibited from retaliating against whistleblowers who come forward about perceived ethical or legal wrongdoing.
Without admitting any wrongdoing, Carrols Corporation, the world's largest operator of Burger King franchises, recently settled a multi-state lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Carrols operates 575 Burger King restaurants in 13 states, although apparently not in Minnesota. In fact, just last year Carrols acquired 278 Burger King restaurants, and Burger King Corporation gained a 28.9 percent stake in Carrols.
Last week, the President signed a new version of the federal Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act into law. The 2012 version of the WPEA provides employees of federal agencies with additional protection from whistleblower retaliation when they expose corruption, fraud, misconduct, or abuse at their agencies.
Not unexpectedly, the economic downturn has had an impact on the power dynamic between employees and employers. When jobs are scarce, many people feel they have no choice but to put up with the unwanted aspects of their situations -- sometimes, even when that means putting up with employee rights violations such as sexual or racial harassment. But what about bullying?