Articles Tagged with Retaliation

photo-Space-X-300x231A “whistleblower” is an employee who complains of something illegal or unethical internally, to the press or to a government agency and because of that suffers as a result. A lawsuit filed by such an employee, especially when it involves a business doing business with a government entity, can be highly damaging not only in legal costs and potential damages but because the negative light it casts on a company can disrupt relationships with current customers and make it more difficult to get new ones.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. was cleared by a jury in state court in Los Angeles earlier this month, dismissing a claim by a former technician, Jason Blasdell, he was fired because he told his supervisors (and even company founder Elon Musk) technicians were being pressured by management to falsify test results for rocket and spacecraft parts, reports Bloomberg.

The company stated the plaintiff was fired for poor job performance and he didn’t actually complain of anything illegal or unethical. The company’s attorney argued that Blasdell never saw, performed or complained of unlawful testing and never communicated his concerns to federal authorities. The plaintiff allegedly lost his job because his job performance was unacceptable and fellow employees were worried about their safety because of him.

864516_high_contrast_office_6It has been twice in a week that the Orange County Register has reported that two high-ranking police offers were terminated because they spoke up against their superiors. One officer complained about her superior’s mismanagement and the other alleged that his boss condoned corruption in the department according to the lawsuits filed. The lawsuits were only recently filed, so the Orange County juries will have the opportunity to judge the facts that both parties reveal at the trials. As a business owner myself, I understand that the cost of hiring and maintaining a workforce is a huge chunk of the overhead cost. The last thing we want to deal with is an employee suing you because of something that could have been prevented.

The labor law in California heavily favors employees, and rightfully so. As such, entrepreneurs must be on guard to protect themselves against lawsuits for employment discrimination as the Californian courts have ruled that employees have the right to file such lawsuits against their employers. They need to prove that they were subject to “adverse employment action” because they refused to engage in unlawful conduct or simply engaged in a “protected activity” and suffered damages.

“Adverse employment action” is action taken by an employer to penalize an employee for or prevent an employee from opposing an illegal activity by refusing to hire, denying promotion, denying job benefits, demotion, being verbally abusive, disciplining, or providing a negative job review. The most common “protected activities” in the private sector are sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender, age, race, religion, or disability. However, it can also include other illegal activities.

The courts have broadly defined the terms of “adverse employment action” and “protected activities”; thus, employers need to take an active approach to ensure that they have written policies that prohibit discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace. These policies need to be comprehensible and made available to all employees. In addition, employers need to have a system in place for employees to voice their concerns. They must investigate claims and take the appropriate corrective measures if necessary. Employers need to ensure that employees who complain are not reprimanded because they filed the complaints.

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