Whistleblowing is the act of reporting, or supporting someone who reports, illegal conduct by your employer. This can include illegal discrimination or harassment, or other forms of illegal conduct like violating securities or environmental laws. Our firm supports employees making internal whistleblowing complaints. We also can help if a whistleblowing employee gets retaliated against, in both the US and the UK.
Victimisation in the UK
Victimisation at work occurs when an employer subjects you to detriment because you have brought proceedings for, given evidence of, or made allegations of discrimination or harassment. Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for employers to take action against employees for reporting conduct that violates the Act.
Of course, employers do not announce to you that they are subjecting you to a detriment in retaliation for your complaining about discrimination; they try to make it seem a normal work-related issue. We have had clients who have been suddenly made redundant after making a discrimination complaint, but often the victimisation is more subtle. We have achieved good results for clients who have had the misfortune of being punished for standing up for the legal rights of themselves or someone else.
Retaliation in the US
Retaliation is where an employer subjects you to detrimental treatment because you have brought forward a complaint of harassment or discrimination, or have supported a co-worker with their complaint. This can be either in a formal procedure (an HR investigation, ethics investigation, EEOC investigation, etc.) or through informal reporting to management.
Other federal and state laws prohibit retaliation against employees who make complaints about other kinds of employer misconduct, including securities fraud, cheating on government contracts, putting patients in danger, and environmental violations. If you are fired or otherwise punished in retaliation for bringing illegal conduct to light, you can get your job reinstated and/or win damages. Also, the government itself will sometimes pay substantial awards to people who report violations of these laws.
Our lawyers have represented people who have been punished for complaining about discrimination and other forms of illegal conduct both in the US and UK. Employers are often hostile to people who report discrimination or other misconduct, so if you are considering doing this, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible, preferably before acting.
Professor Heather Savigny – harassment and victimisation
In response to the support Heather provided to a student assaulted by a senior academic, Heather was victimised by her employer and colleagues.
Aslin et al. v. University of Rochester
We represented ten professors and former graduate students in a lawsuit against the University of Rochester for violations of Title VII, Title IX, and the New York State Human Rights Law. The case resulted in a $9.4 million settlement.
Glyndwr University ‘Vampire Professor’ and our whistleblowing client
A student confided in Helen Coleman, a PhD student at the time, who reported the Senior Lecturer’s inappropriate behaviour. Rather than address the complaints in the interests of their students’ safety, Glyndwr University chose to ignore Coleman’s report.