Employers are increasingly under the microscope as legislation and regulation regarding whistleblower protections continues to grow. As the list of protections grow, government investigations have increased and whistleblower and retaliation suits brought by employees have multiplied.
Legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd Frank and the False Claims Act provide specific protections to whistleblowers who make complaints regarding their employers’ practices. These protections, which include a prohibition on retaliation against whistleblowers, and increasingly stringent enforcement by the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), make it critical that employers have a system in place for effectively addressing and resolving complaints before external investigation or litigation.
The firm works with its clients to design compliance programs for managing and investigating complaints. This process includes advising employers on how to respond to whistleblowers in order to mitigate the risk of retaliation claims. The firm also helps employers implement practices and training to reduce potential exposure due to intentional, or even unintentional, actions that could be viewed as retaliation by employees who are contemplating or engaging in protected whistleblowing activity. The firm also has specialized experience defending employers against retaliation claims before administrative agencies, in arbitrations, and in federal and state courts.
The firm successfully assisted a corporate client in defending against allegations of whistleblower retaliation filed with the Department of Labor OSHA following an investigation into a safety complaint. The complainant was a current employee, and the firm assisted its client in navigating the employment relationship, which was fraught with performance issues resulting in the employee’s eventual termination. The firm was successful in obtaining dismissal of the whistleblower complaint along with a determination from both OSHA that no retaliation had occurred, even after the employee was terminated during the course of the investigation.
The firm represented its client against a lawsuit filed by a long-term employee who alleged that she was retaliated against when she made complaints about age discrimination to her manager and the company’s Human Resources personnel in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The firm strategically removed the lawsuit to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, and with the threat of having to defend against the firm’s impending summary judgment motion, the former employee agreed to a settlement that was favorable to the firm’s client.
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