Here in Wisconsin, and throughout the country, when an employee has knowledge that his or her employer is doing something illegal, the employee is in a very difficult position. The honorable and responsible thing to do is often to report the illegal activity by alerting authorities, but the whistle-blower might then risk being fired or retaliated against by the employer. Of course, it is illegal for the employer to respond in that way, but that does not always stop them.
When a whistle-blower is wrongfully terminated or otherwise treated unfairly for alerting authorities, the employee can seek legal recourse under federal employment law. In fact, earlier this month the Justice Department appointed a whistle-blower ombudsman to ensure that whistle-blower violations within the government are investigated thoroughly and quickly.
The ombudsman was appointed by the Justice Department’s inspector general, and he will be charged with teaching Justice Department employees about their rights when it comes to reporting improper spending, fraud and other mismanagement.
The ombudsman will also work as a liaison with other federal bodies in regard to whistle-blower laws. A number of recent retaliation allegations, within the government, reportedly led to the decision to create a position for a whistle-blower ombudsman.
For those of us who do not work for the Justice Department, it is pretty unlikely that our employer has a whistle-blower ombudsman. Many employers do have human resources departments that field these complaints, but this is rarely helpful because this department works on behalf of the company that may be violating the law.
When employees find themselves facing retaliation after reporting suspected illegal actions of their employer, they are often wise to talk to an employment law attorney about their rights.
Source: koamtv.com, “New Justice position focuses on whistleblowers,” Aug. 8, 2012