You may think that blowing the whistle on workplace illegality is the stuff of movies, where stories of heroic resistance to illegal practices and subsequent retaliation are rectified by a crusading employee. Our lawyers have found that most whistleblowers are extremely reluctant to serve as the crusading employee. They just want to work, get their paycheck and go home, just like everybody else. The typical whistleblower calls us in a panic from a workplace stairwell, scared to death because, without thinking, they resisted an illegal practice and now the whole world is falling down on them. They are spun around, confused and totally caught off guard by their employer’s retaliation for having blown the whistle. They never would have thought that doing the right thing would have resulted in this much chaos, believing that there employer was passively complicit with an illegal practice rather than deeply committed to it, which is more often the case.
The latter is the more common, and far less dramatic face of whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is often not as sexy as it sounds, and can be as mundane as refusing to pay someone cash under the table or insisting that overtime wages be paid when they have been lawfully earned. These are the cases we readily accept, and if you are one of these people, we strongly encourage you to call for a screening. For those employees in government, the financial industry and advertising – the industries where whistleblowing claims are most common – you may have already narrowly escaped something similar, or known someone who was not as lucky. In our experience, the pressure on a whistleblower is unlike anything an individual can experience in the workplace, incomparable even to the stress encountered by those unfortunate employees experiencing other forms of illegal retaliation. Not only do whistleblowers often justifiably end the careers of those they blow the whistle on, they sometimes send them to prison. Sometimes they send many people to prison. You can only imagine the resistance credible whistleblowers encounter when they escalate illegal conduct. Our lawyers have known whistleblowers who have had their physical safety threatened, paychecks reduced, benefits slashed, and promised promotions forfeited. And those are just the employees who weren’t fired outright.
The bottom line is that it’s unusually hard being a whistleblower and most find themselves in the position unwittingly. Once you are there, there’s no turning back, and you can’t do it alone. Our firm provides safe haven for credible whistleblowers, acting as a forceful advocate for restoring your reputation and good name. And we embrace the broader understanding of “counselor,”- we’re here to listen to you when you need to know how to handle your coworkers, or how to respond to an email from your boss after he or she has been made aware that you hired a lawyer. The good news is that damages in these cases often acknowledge the inevitable loss of reputation and grievous harm to one’s career suffered by the whistleblower. And other awards are available for whistleblowers reporting fraud against the government, including a percentage of the recovery in the event that you are willing to serve as a “relator” in a Qui Tam action. So there are ways to pursue what has been taken from you, provided you find experienced counsel capable of taking on the particular challenges presented by these cases.