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Whistleblowers say they were fired as retaliation for speaking up

by | Dec 8, 2020 | Employment Law

In California, people who speak out about possible wrongdoing in the workplace are accorded certain legal protections as whistleblowers. Part of that is being able to report information without fear and concern over their job status. Unfortunately, many employers and superiors who are subject to an investigation after whistleblowers have spoken out will retaliate. This can be done in various ways including demotions, diminished standing, having their duties reduced, and even being terminated. Those who have been mistreated in this way have rights based on employment law and should ensure they are protected with experienced legal representation.

City manager allegedly fires workers who spoke up in investigation

A local city manager who was investigated for worker mistreatment including bullying and harassing staff members fired three subordinates who took part in the independent inquiry. The outside counsel who oversaw the investigation hired an investigator of its own to check if there were violations of city policy or other problems with the city manager’s behavior. There were around 10 employees interviewed including the three people who were ultimately fired.

The investigator said their interviewers were notable due to their disputes with the city manager. They stated they felt he should be replaced. According to the investigator, they were unsure as to whether they should speak out for fear of retaliation. They were told their identities would be shielded. One specifically said that the city manager would find out about the report and retaliate.

The city manager was exonerated. The outside counsel said he advised the city manager to terminate the three employees for reasons unconnected to their whistleblowing. The assertion is that the dismissals were separate from the three employees speaking out and their status as at-will employees allows them to be fired for any reason. The workers have filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination seeking lost income and other damages.

Whistleblowers should be aware of the need for legal assistance

Employees who witness workplace misbehavior are frequently unsure of what to do about it. While they may be keenly aware of the “right” thing to do morally and ethically, there are generally concerns as to what might happen to them in the aftermath. This is true despite the legal protections accorded to whistleblowers. Employers and supervisors who are in a position of authority over the whistleblower might interfere in the investigation, retaliate, demote or take other illegal steps to penalize the person or persons who spoke out. For people who are in a similar position as these city employees, it is important to understand their rights. Consulting with a firm that has experience in whistleblower protections and employment law can be beneficial to a legal claim.