In America, many laws protect employees in the workplace. The law protects workers from many forms of discrimination, unfair wages, workplace hazards, and more. However, it is an unfortunate fact that not all employers follow these laws. Some make mistakes that are unintentional, some are unaware that a problem exists, and others know about violations and simply don’t care.
After witnessing illegal workplace activities, workers react in different ways. Some remain silent and endure unfair practices because they need their jobs. They are afraid to report employers violating labor laws for fear that their employer will retaliate against them. Others choose to “blow the whistle” for the good of everyone working at the company and the public. These brave souls are referred to as “whistleblowers.” And because employers sometimes retaliate against whistleblowers, the law prohibits retribution against those brave enough to speak up. For decades, whistleblowers have helped uncover single episodes of wrongdoing, as well as fraud, abuse, and other illegalities perpetrated by corporations on an ongoing basis. Whistleblowers help keep profit-oriented companies in line and are essential to workplace stability in America. So if you see something wrong at work, what should you do? How do you go about reporting illegal activity? Well, you start by consulting with an experienced whistleblower attorney who can advise you of the best way to address the wrongdoing.
First, Get Help
When you see or experience something wrong at work, you face a dilemma. Not many people have the courage to speak up, and you may find that your coworkers prefer to remain silent and maintain the status quo. But when a harmful or potentially hazardous problem persists, your desire to report it can increase.
Individuals are often fearful of retaliation and feel powerless, but that is why laws exist to protect them. Agencies in the Department of Labor are there to support and protect fair workplace practices. These agencies help you help fix problems and hold your employer responsible if they refuse to cooperate. But going it alone and knowing where to start can feel overwhelming. So it is best to contact an experienced employment and labor lawyer to help you. They can assist in collecting evidence and filing a complaint. Lawyers also know which laws apply to specific problems and can steer you toward the appropriate agency within the Department of Labor to file a report.
Tips for Filing a Report
There is a sequence of actions you can take once you decide to report employers violating labor laws.
Start with Your Boss
Some breaches of employment law are unintentional. It is possible that management is not even aware of the problem. So it is best to begin at home and let your supervisor know about your concerns. If the problem is not urgent, give management some time to address it. Check back with them periodically to see if the company has taken any action. If the company seems resistant to change after a suitable period of time has passed, it is time for the next step.
While You Are Waiting
After you have reported the issue to your supervisor and are waiting to see if they plan on addressing the problem, keep notes. Write down everything you see that relates to the issue. Keep a log of when you met with supervisors, whom you met with, what you told them, and how they responded. Note whether other employees join you in reporting the incident as well as the results of such reports. The more detailed notes you keep, the more proof you have once your case reaches the proper authorities.
Identify the Right Agency
The exact process for filing a report varies according to the nature of the issue. For instance, if your problem pertains to family and medical leave, wages, or overtime pay, you need to file your complaint with the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. If you witnessed unsafe working conditions that threaten the health and safety of workers, you want to contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Do your research and speak with an attorney to determine which laws your employer broke and which agencies deal with those infractions. You want to make sure that your complaint gets into the right hands.
Contact the Agency Before Filing
Once you ascertain which agency is appropriate for your complaint, contact the agency to ask whether or not you need to go through a state agency first. The Maryland Department of Labor may be the place to start, depending on your issue. So ask an attorney or call the appropriate federal agency to determine the proper venue to begin the reporting process.
Time Is of the Essence
And finally, remember that there are time limits to report some workplace problems. It may be tempting to put off the problem until tomorrow, but more often than not, tomorrows add up and become months and years before you realize it. So don’t procrastinate.
Document Any Retaliation
Once you have taken action, keep an eye out for retaliation. Employers who are not happy with your attempts to improve your workplace can do all sorts of things to try to hurt you. Make sure to document everything you can if you suddenly find that you are a victim of any of the following:
- Harassment from your supervisors;
- Decrease in pay;
- Demotion or a lateral transfer to an undesirable position;
- Unwanted relocation;
- Unwarranted negative performance evaluations; or
- Getting fired.
Fortunately, this type of retaliatory behavior is also illegal. So document anything that smells like retaliation and let your lawyer know immediately.
We Are Here to Protect You
Whistleblowers often walk a lonely road. Let the attorneys at the Smithey Law Group make sure that your rights are protected as you attempt to hold your employer accountable for illegal workplace practices. Call us at 410-919-2990 or contact us online to set up your initial consultation today.