What to do If You Are Fired After Blowing the Whistle
Whistleblowing is an effective way of ensuring that your employer’s wrongful or illegal conduct is immediately stopped so that justice is achieved. However, the process of blowing the whistle and the immediate consequences of voicing your concerns either internally within your company or externally to a federal agency can be riddled with difficulties. After you blow the whistle on your employer, you may notice that you are treated differently compared to before you blew the whistle. Your colleagues may shun you, your supervisor may give you more work, your working hours may change to your disadvantage, etc. Or, even worse, you could find that your pay is reduced, your benefits are deferred, cancelled, or reduced, you are suspended from your normal activities, or you are disciplined for your substandard work in a manner that is inconsistent with your work product’s quality. These are the usual cases. Actual termination is rare because most employers will be too self-conscious to fire you after you blew the whistle since this would look obviously and overwhelmingly retaliatory. But what should you do if you are fired after blowing the whistle?
Before discussing the critical steps you should undertake after termination from your employment, it is important to distinguish between constructive dismissal versus wrongful dismissal. Under constructive dismissal, an employee feels forced to resign. Life at work in these cases has become so unbearable and challenging that you have no choice but to leave. This can be hard to prove in court; however, occurrences such as reduced pay, harassment by your supervisor, or the elimination of your benefits greatly bolster the claim. Wrongful dismissal, on the other hand, occurs where your employer or supervisor has formally dismissed you from employment. Here, it is important to understand that the dismissal must be wrongful. If you have been fired for poor work, constantly being late, or unethical conduct on your own part, then it is likely that a court will not find that your termination was wrongful. However, filing a complaint—blowing the whistle—on your employer for violations of federal law and then getting fired is an example of a viable claim for wrongful dismissal. Below is a brief list of the steps you can take after getting fired for exercising your federal right as a whistleblower:
- Begin saving evidence: Information on texts, emails, phone records, etc. can be used to form the basis of your complaint and are critical evidence in support of your claim. Copies of your termination letter, prior pay stubs as well as disciplinary actions received are useful documents that can be used when preparing your case.
- Start thinking about witnesses: Your case may need the assistance of witnesses who are familiar with the allegation for which you intend to assert. Begin documenting the contact details of these witnesses and the information you think the witnesses may know.
- Look to see how other employees are treated at work: An important part of your claim is that you were targeted. If other employees at work are being treated in the same manner—for example, if your supervisor regularly disciplines or harasses its personnel—it would be hard to prove that you were singled out personally even if this conduct occurred after blowing the whistle.
- Retain a qualified employment law attorney: Employment laws are complex and constantly changing. It is not advisable to proceed on your own when considering whether to sue for wrongful termination after blowing the whistle. An employment law attorney can let you know whether you have a viable case, advise you on the information needed to form the basis of your claim, and defend you in court.