Being disciplined or fired for exercising your rights as an employee is not only upsetting; it is illegal. This is called retaliation and there are strict state and federal laws in place that prohibit such behaviors.
However, employers still try to get away with retaliatory actions by lying or misrepresenting situations. In some cases, they hope to muddy up the waters just enough so that it isn't exactly clear why a person was fired, demoted or transferred.
For instance, readers of this blog may be familiar with the story about an employee at Veterans Affairs who blew the whistle on the VA and its shockingly bad treatment of veterans waiting for care. The whistleblower was not fired or disciplined for making these reports; at least, not right away.
That was nearly three years ago, and the man recently filed a claim saying the VA is retaliating against him now. He says he has been harassed, placed under surveillance, given an impossible workload, and held to unattainable expectations. These, he argues, are retaliatory actions.
However, the VA maintains that many of these actions had to be taken because his team was facing allegations of harassment. Whether there is any truth to that statement or not, this man is not the only whistleblower saying he has been retaliated against by the VA. Others have reportedly been suspended and wrongfully placed under investigation for reporting issues with the VA.
This situation should serve as a reminder that retaliation isn't always as obvious as a termination. In many cases, offending parties will be more subtle in their mistreatment of a worker in the hopes that it will be too difficult for the employee to make a case. However, with the help of an experienced attorney, whistleblowers and employees across New York can hold employers accountable for violating their rights.