There is no such thing as whistleblower insurance, although some businesses might prefer its existence. A whistleblower claim can mean one of two things. First, these can be the literal assertions made of criminal, unlawful, or immoral activities conducted at a business by an employee. Second, they can be a legal response to retaliatory moves made against a whistleblower (since retaliation is illegal).
When we hear about whistleblower claims in civil court, it’s usually the second instance being considered. Employers respond to whistleblowing in a variety of ways. The best way is simply amending behavior to fall in better line with the law or fundamental human morality. But many employers go further down the rabbithole by limiting hours, harassing, exploiting honest mistakes made by the whistleblower, or terminating employment. All these actions are examples of retaliation.
An anonymous lawyer for cmlaw.com explained, “All employees have a universal right to unveil potentially illegal or immoral actions made in a workplace, whether those actions are made by a fellow employee or boss. This right exists to make a workplace more comfortable and more in line with the law, which benefits all parties. But still, some managers view whistleblowing as a personal offense and react poorly. That’s when lawyers get involved.”
A classic example of retaliation occurred during and after the first impeachment of former president Donald Trump. Retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his brother were both fired after Vindman testified during the impeachment trial. He later sued for intimidation and retaliation. The lawsuit is ongoing. Although this example is political, it works the same way in any workplace and is still illegal in government.
Vindman later admitted he had no qualms about telling the truth when it mattered the most, but was upset that doing the right thing effectively ended his career.
In fact, whistleblowing often has this effect — and it should not be tolerated. When retaliation occurs, you should immediately contact an employment lawyer to discuss options.
Retaliation claims are often overlooked because they are difficult to prove. A “smart” manager will begin writing up the employee for infractions that are more often ignored. Five minutes late to work? You might get written up when you never were before. Took an extra two minutes on break? Another write-up. Managers will often write up whistleblowers for failing to meet a quota after providing more work than usual or cut hours to make the usual tasks impossible to complete.
Employees who believe that managerial behavior constitutes retaliation should speak to coworkers. Ask them if they received write-ups or got in trouble for the same things. For example, a good employment lawyer will point out when retaliation doesn’t meet the usual code of conduct.
Coworkers are sometimes hesitant to get involved and might be less than inclined to provide this information even when justified because they also fear retaliation and they don’t want to make matters worse. That’s one reason why whistleblower claims are difficult to prove in court.