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Can companies fire those who report business misconduct?

There are hundreds of federal and state statutes that regulate business operations. Companies should remain vigilant concerning their obligations to their employees and to the various state and federal statutes that govern the industry in which they operate. Unfortunately, the desire to generate profit can sometimes motivate business executives or owners to ignore statutes and safety regulations that might diminish their profit margins.

Workers may discover questionable practices or outright illegal activity at a company as a result. They might want to notify management internally about those issues or possibly bring the matter to the attention of regulatory officials. Do those workers need to worry about losing their jobs if they do the right thing?

Whistleblowers are granted protection from retaliation

An employee who draws internal attention to company misconduct or who reports the matter to regulatory officials should not have to worry about their employer punishing them for doing the right thing. Federal protections make it illegal for businesses to punish whistleblowers by firing them or imposing other career consequences for the decision to report internally or externally about suspected misconduct.

Whether someone makes an anonymous report to an outside agency that the company traces back to them or has a sit-down meeting with the management team about legal infractions in their department, the choice to point out misconduct should not have a negative impact on someone’s employment circumstances. Retaliation doesn’t just result in an unfair termination. Demoting someone, transferring them to another department or denying them future advancement opportunities could all also constitute retaliation.

Whistleblowers need to know their rights

To prevent a business from violating a worker’s rights by punishing them for doing the ethical thing, the worker speaking up needs to know their rights and keep clear documentation about the situation. That way, if their company does retaliate against them for reporting misconduct, they can theoretically show that the loss of their job or the other consequences they suffered was caused by a direct relationship to their decision to act as a whistleblower and was likely a violation of their rights.

Seeking legal guidance about a retaliatory situation and its implications for a company as well as the individual workers speaking up about particular circumstances may help people better prepare to avoid or fight back against company misconduct related to whistleblowing.