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MEL - My Employment Lawyer

Where employees get their rights

Frequently Asked Questions

Retaliation & Whistleblowing FAQs


Contents

What protection do I have from retaliation by my employer?

How do I prove retaliation?

Is whistleblowing the same thing?

What are some other examples of protected conduct?

How do I know what conduct is protected?

Does this mean I can't be fired after I do something protected?

Can I get into trouble for turning my employer into the authorities for no good reason?

 

What protection do I have from retaliation by my employer?

The law protects employees from retaliation for engaging in protected conduct.  In Ohio employees can sue for economic, emotional and punitive damages if their employer takes adverse employment action against them for engaging in protected conduct.

Fortney & Klingshirn provides  answers to frequently asked questions about retaliation and whistleblowing to help you evaluate your options.  These answers are not a substitute for legal advise.  You must consult counsel liscensed to practice in your state if you believe that you are a victim of retaliation.

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How do I prove retaliation?

The gist of a retaliation claim is that an employer "gets back" at an employee for doing something protected by law.  To win a retaliation claim, employees must prove that:

  • they engaged in protected conduct;
  • their employer disciplined, terminated or did something else bad to them; and
  • their employer did the bad thing because they engaged in protected conduct.

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Is whistleblowing the same thing?

Not quite.  Whistleblowing describes a certain kind of protected conduct, which is turning in an employer for breaking the law.  The employer retaliates only if it takes adverse employment action against the employee as a result. 

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What are some other examples of protected conduct?

Other examples of protected conduct include:

  • asking for overtime pay
  • filing a complaint with the department of labor;
  • reporting sexually harassing conduct;
  • serving for the armed forces or reserve; and
  • applying for medical benefits or leave.

A less obvious example occurs when an employee complains about general working conditions on behalf of others, even if the conditions are not unlawful.  Federal labor law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for engaging in such "concerted activity".

Generally speaking, an employee engages in protected conduct any time he or she exercises an individual right or does something of  public importance.

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How do I know what conduct is protected?

Get to know your  rights.  When you exercise them, you engage in protected conduct. 

You also engage in protected conduct by doing things valued by the public, such as reporting wrongdoing or serving your country or community.

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Does this mean I can't be fired after I do something protected?

Not at all.  It means you cannot be fired because you did something protected.  Your employer can always fire you for a legitimate reason.  

Importantly, retaliation suits let juries second guess an employer's  motives.  If bad things follow quickly behind protected conduct, juries tend to believe that the protected conduct played a part.

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Can I get into trouble for turning my employer into the authorities for no good reason?

Yes.  Your employer can discipline or terminate you for making a groundless, bad faith complaint.  

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MEL - My Employment Lawyer

by

Neil E. Klingshirn
Creator and moderator

 

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