Those who follow employment law news in South Florida may have noticed many stories lately about whistle blowers netting large settlements. The term "whistle blower" is generally used to describe an employee who exposes or reports the wrongdoing of his or her employer.
In the latest whistle blower news, earlier this week it was reported that a former UBS banker received an award that could be the largest ever given in this area of law--$104 million. The IRS paid the man $104 million for providing tips on a tax fraud conspiracy at his company. While news stories like those about this banker make it appear as though it is a good time to be in the whistle blower business, it is actually a very dangerous thing for an employee to become involved in.
According to the Ethics Resource Center, although more workers than ever are reporting wrongdoing, there has been an increase in workers experiencing retaliation. The center looked at data from a study of 2,100 employees at large U.S. companies, and found that in 2011, 22 percent of workers who reported wrongdoing were retaliated against, compared to just 12 percent experiencing retaliation in 2007.
Retaliation can be used to describe a number of things, most frequently the employer passing over a whistle blower for promotions or raises, or even firing the employee. It can also include physical attacks on a worker or his or her property.
When an employer is engaged in some type of illegal activity, the ethical thing for employees to do may be to report this to the proper authority. However, it can be difficult for employees to do what is right when it will affect their safety, income or job security. Retaliating against a whistle blower is illegal and employers who do this should be held accountable, but this does not mean it is easy to do this. Those who have experienced workplace retaliation often benefit from seeking an advocate.
Source: AOL Jobs, "Does It Finally Pay to be a Whistleblower?" Pam Kruger, Sept. 11, 2012
- Our firm handles cases like those mentioned in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Florida Employment Law page.