Retaliation Claims Are On the Rise….big surprise.

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Retaliation Claims Are On the Rise….big surprise.

Here we go!

Less than two weeks after the United States Senate’s Whistleblowing Protection Advisory Committee (WPAC) held hearings on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) whistleblower rules and regulations, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued its annual report making much of the testimony by proponents of lightening the burden on government contractor’s in whistleblower claims seem ridiculous.

As mentioned in the previous blog article, government officials met to discuss whether changes in the laws protecting whistleblowers under the various rules and regulations overseen by OSHA were warranted.   Representatives testifying on behalf of government contractors and employers urged Subcommittee members to consider putting mandates in place that would require OSHA to work with employers to create a ‘culture of compliance’ whereunder employees could feel safe in coming forward to report illegal, fraudulent or unsafe working conditions.

This new culture would require that OSHA and other agencies provide guidance to employers and contractors on how to foster an environment where employees would not fear retaliation for reporting violations.

It seems that making retaliation illegal isn’t quite enough of an impetus for employers to be doing that already.

While these hearings were taking place, and law makers were being serenaded by songs of a more therapeutic system of enforcement by contractor representatives, the EEOC was quietly compiling statistics outlining the number and types of claims filed with that agency over the last 12 months.

The EEOC report, issued here, points out how employers and government contractors are the LAST entities on earth that should be allowed to police themselves, and they certainly don’t deserve a break in fines and penalties for pretending to care about what their employees think or say.

The EEOC reports that retaliation claims accounted for 41% of all of the claims filed with the agency last year.  Retaliation claims often go hand in hand with whistleblower complaints, as employers feel the need to ‘get back at’ the employee who reported their wrongdoing.

Let’s face it, employers and government contractors are well aware that they are engaged in fraudulent activity.  There are very few cases where a rogue employee has setup a system of defrauding the government for his or her employer’s benefit without the employer knowing and/or taking part in it.  If any of those cases actually do exist, most government agencies responsible for prosecuting whistleblower complaints would probably either dismiss them or settle them with a slap on the wrist to the unwitting employer.

When an employee blows the whistle, he proves that he or she isn’t a ‘team player’ and runs the risk of destroying the system of government bilking the employer has worked so hard to hide.  Retaliating against that employee is a very human reaction.  As recently reported in the Washington Times, even employees government agencies are not safe from retaliatory efforts.

In 2009, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) began a system of providing and/or not seizing firearms from criminals, knowing that they would end up in the hands of Mexican drug dealers.  The project, now known as Fast and Furious, was designed to provide firearms to local dealers in Mexico in an effort to take down particular drug cartels.

The short-sighted efforts resulted in the death of at least one Border Patrol agent, Brian A. Terry on December 14th, 2010, which lead to the program’s demise and subsequent uncovering by ATF agent whistleblowers.  The ATF agents who complained and brought the program to light were Agents Peter Forcelli and John Dodson.

Forcelli and Dodson were, as a result of their reports, assigned to a supervisor who began doing whatever he could to ‘get whatever dirt’ he could on Agents Forcelli and Dodson.

Those retaliation efforts were reported to Congress members and an investigation ensued, which resulted in an undisclosed settlement between the two agents and ATF officials.

That is why whistleblower protections exist.  All statutory schemes that deal with whistleblowers have built in protections designed to either stop retaliation or to make it illegal, with penalties sometimes being quite severe.

The Dodd-Frank Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and California whistleblower protections are all very clear that firing an employee who reports incidents of wrongdoing is unlawful, as is taking any type of negative action affecting a term or condition of employment.

Even though laws are designed to protect whistleblowers from retaliation, it is clear that revenge is still a prime mover in the minds of government contractors and employers.  With 41% of the cases the EEOC is dealing with being retaliation claims, there can be no other conclusion.

In order to protect whistleblowers from being fired or negatively impacted because of their reports of wrongdoing, experienced and effective legal counsel must be engaged either BEFORE the employee makes a report, or very shortly thereafter.

Attorneys like Stephen Danz & Associates who have been representing whistleblowers for more than 30 years, can guide employees through the process, doing everything they can to insure that they are protected from retaliation throughout.  And in the event that an employee cannot be protected, Stephen Danz can provide the legal representation necessary to make sure the employer is forced to provide the maximum amount of damages and/or reinstate the employee to his or her former position.

If you feel that you, or someone you know has evidence that their employer is engaged in fraudulent, illegal or unsafe business practices, contact our offices today to request a free consultation via our toll free number (877) 789-9707, or use the Contact Form on our website.  Stephen and one of his associates will meet with you in a location that is convenient to your work, school or home, as he regularly travels the state from San Diego to Northern California, meeting with clients and attending court hearings and settlement conferences.

Stephen has partnered with government agencies in prosecuting whistleblower cases for decades, and he will outline for you the process through which your case will go, assisting you in gathering the evidence you will need, in a legal manner, to make your report of illegal behavior.