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What to do When you Think Your Employer is Doing Something Illegal

Illegal actions by an employer could be wide-ranging-anything from environmental pollution to violating labor laws, to inside deals. So what do you do when you find this activity is going on?

The first thing you need to know is that whistleblower laws may not protect you from immediate adverse action, like firing, demotion or disciplinary action. Even if it's wrong. In order to get these protections, your company first must be shown to be in the wrong, which can take some time.

So before you go rogue, take these steps:

  • Make sure you get the facts. Sometimes things aren't what they seem. Ask around, research federal, local and state laws, and know how large your company is. Laws vary based on the size of the company, the location of the company and where the employees are. Just because you're "sure" something isn't right doesn't mean it's not perfectly legal.
  • Report it to the right person. First, go to your supervisor with your concern. If you think your supervisor is part of the issue, go up the chain of command. Call your EAP, or employee assistance program. Check out which state or federal agency is in charge of the issue and file a complaint. Filing a complaint initiates an investigation; it doesn't ensure fines, penalties or any other action.
  • Consider your options. Generally, you have three options in a case like this: stay and say nothing, report the violation, or simply quit and walk away. The right choice for you depends on your moral standards, legal liability, and financial situation. If you stay and say nothing, you could be implicated in the wrongdoing if someone else, like a local regulatory agency, discovers it. But on the other hand, reporting an issue is not a guarantee that it will be addressed. And if you chose to quit, how will that impact your ability to meet your financial obligations? Find another job? Sleep at night knowing you did nothing?

If you have been the target of workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair termination, Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. represents clients in federal court and before the EEOC, MSPB and in state and union grievance hearings.

Our attorneys have more than 40 years dedicated to giving clients the attention, advice, support and empowerment they need to effectively meet their goals. We are committed to the principle that all persons shall have equal justice under the law. Call Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. at 304.523.8451 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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