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Whistleblowers are protected by law from workplace retaliation

It takes a certain amount of bravery for a person in Tennessee to take action and "blow the whistle" on unlawful actions committed by their employer. Some unscrupulous employers will violate the law, for their own gain and at the expense of honest employees. However, workers may fear that their employer will reprimand them or fire them for speaking out as a whistleblower. Fortunately, federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws protect workers in such situations from being retaliated against at work.

The following are some examples of protected activities under EEO laws. A person cannot be fired for serving as a witness in an EEO charge, investigation or legal action. A person cannot be retaliated against for reporting workplace discrimination or harassment, or for refusing to do something discriminatory. Similarly, if a worker resists sexual advances from another worker or acts to stop such advancements made against others, the worker cannot be retaliated against.

Some examples of retaliation include passing a worker over for a promotion or giving them an unwarranted poor performance evaluation. Moving the worker to a less desirable job position could also be retaliatory. Starting rumors about the whistleblower can also be retaliation, as can making it more difficult for a worker to do their job. Firing a worker for blowing the whistle is also retaliatory. These are only a few examples of retaliatory actions that could be against the law.

Workers should not fear for their jobs or their safety simply for reporting or cooperating with investigations of illegal workplace activities or subsequent lawsuits. Unfortunately, many employers will try to get away with treating a worker negatively for these exact reasons. If workers do not know what their rights are in such situations, they could find themselves without a job and wondering where to turn next, or they could find themselves stuck in a toxic working environment that causes them significant emotional distress. Therefore, it is important that they understand their rights as a whistleblower to be free from retaliation, and what steps to take if it occurs, including reporting the incident to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Facts About Retaliation," accessed April 14, 2018

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