While it looks simple according to human resource laws, it’s not actually easy to win a whistle-blower suit against your employer. It’s the case as you will among others find out in this piece.
According to a recent study conducted by the Fraud Magazine, some 74% of whistle blowers are wrongfully terminated, 6% are suspended, 5% are transferred while the remaining 15% are often harassed, demoted, or poorly evaluated in retaliatory attacks. The recent case of Wells Fargo Yesenia Guitron is a good example.
Wells Fargo employed the single mother in March 2008. But after a few months into the job, she noted several sham accounts opened in relatives’ as well as clients’ names by colleagues who also issued too many unneeded credit cards in the bid to beat unrealistically high sales goals
After unsuccessfully following up the matter with her seniors, Guitron spelled out her allegations in a 2010 lawsuit against the company but the San Francisco District Court declined to award her damages arguing that even if the sales goals were unreasonably high, it wasn’t in anyway illegal.
Guitron filed an appeal case in 2015 but that too failed, leaving her with $18,000 legal bill. Later, other personnel sued Wells Fargo but they too lost their lawsuits and suffered retaliatory attacks. As at now, the banking giant has fired more than 5300 workers and is also facing $180m in fines.
The long and short of this is that while it’s important to report wrongdoing in your organization, you need to be cautious while doing so and must only proceed from a point of knowledge in the pursuit of such actions. In regards to that, take a glimpse at whistle-blowing as provided for by the following human resource laws.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
The overall duty clause of the OSH Act is to ensure a safe and healthy workplace that’s free from serious recognized hazards. As shall hardly be stated in Labor Law posters, the Act also prohibits employers from retaliating against their staff for exercising their rights including whistleblowing.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA)
The basic cause of these human resource laws is to protect employees within its jurisdiction from minimum wage unfairness, child labor, and overtime pay infringements. It is enforced by Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. Like other laws, it also protects whistleblowers.
Government Jobs and or Contracts
Government jobs and contracts are regulated by various human resource laws including among others; Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA), McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act, and Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards as well as The Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act.
Like other human resource laws and as often highlighted in most labor law posters, regulations regarding government jobs and or contracts also contain provisions that prohibit the employers from retaliating against employees who yield information about infringement on various rights.
Among other topical concerns, Yesenia Guitron’s case against Wells Fargo has powered the push for stronger whistleblower protection. Despite the low success rate of the cases, it’s important to recognize the hope that comes along with more awareness. For instance, hopefully the regulators may soon want to look at critical concerns such as anonymity, cash rewards, and communication.