Alternative dispute resolution is an option for whistle-blowers

When an employee reports a suspected illegal activity of his or her employer, the employee becomes a whistle-blower. This is a very difficult position for an employee to be in because employers often retaliate against whistle-blowers by treating them poorly in the workplace, denying them pay raises or promotions or even firing them. When a whistle-blower is retaliated against, he or she can seek legal counsel in order to recoup damages and hold the employer accountable.

Employment law attorneys here in Wisconsin and throughout the country will often attempt to handle whistle-blower retaliation cases out of court. It can sometimes be possible to obtain a settlement with a company in mediation, in order to save money, time and stress for all parties involved. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration handles a lot of whistle-blower cases, and they are now also moving toward an alternative dispute resolution model.

OSHA is launching alternative dispute resolution programs in two of its offices, including the Chicago office that handles investigations here in Wisconsin. The two voluntary methods of alternative dispute resolution offered include early resolution and mediation, and these will be voluntary options for complainants and employers.

OSHA administers the whistle-blower provisions of a variety of laws that cover private and public sector employees in health care, food, transit, finance and other industries.

While the alternative dispute resolution program is new to OSHA, it is not new in the larger field of whistle-blower, retaliation and wrongful termination claims. Employees who have been treated unfairly by their employers often work with legal counsel here in Wisconsin and elsewhere in order to resolve the case in an efficient and suitable way with mediation.

Sometimes, of course, employers are not willing to be cooperative or agree to a fair settlement, and in those cases it is important to pursue litigation in order to stand up for a whistle-blower’s rights.

Source: United States Department of Labor, “US Department of Labor’s OSHA announces alternative dispute resolution for whistleblower complaints,” Oct. 12, 2012

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