Whistleblower & Retaliation Claims

When you observe your employer or colleague engaged in illegal activity that puts yourself (and others, including the public) at risk, you may feel compelled to report it.

When you hear someone address a co-worker with language that is discriminatory or harassment, you may feel moved to call attention to it.

Standing up for what’s right, by reporting either illegal activity or abusive behavior, is ideal. Being a whistleblower can have consequences, for both yourself and for the person responsible for the wrongdoing.

Whistleblower Claims

A whistleblower may face pressures imposed by corporate culture and the need for job security that may discourage them from reporting such wrong acts. Federal and state laws recognize the tremendous pressure employers can put upon their employees to remain silent. As a result, there are legal protections to prevent retaliation against those who report discrimination and malfeasance.


An employer engages in unlawful retaliation when it takes adverse action against you for complaining about discrimination, unpaid wages, or other federal and state employment law violations.

Retaliation could be taken to discourage you from reporting discrimination, asserting your legal rights (such as requesting time off to care for a sick spouse), supporting another person's report of discrimination or participating in anti-discrimination proceedings. Retaliation laws apply when you support another employee's discrimination complaint, even if the discrimination didn't apply to you. In some states, you are also protected from retaliation for refusing to participate in activities you believe are illegal discrimination.

One of the clearest forms of retaliation is firing an employee for reporting discrimination. Others include:

  • Demoting you
  • Denial of promotion you even though you're the best-qualified candidate for the job
  • Reducing your hours severely
  • Reassigning you to a less desirable job
  • Negative reviews that are not justified by the facts
  • Creating or knowingly allowing a hostile work environment because of the discrimination complaint
Types of Whistleblower Rights

There are numerous federal and state laws that prohibit retaliation against employees who report unlawful conduct, cooperate with regulatory authorities or otherwise exercise their legal rights:

  • Discrimination and harassment: The Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and similar state and local laws contain provisions that make it a separate offense for an employer to take adverse action against an employee because he or she:
    • Filed a formal complaint of discrimination
    • Complained to a manager or human resources about discrimination
    • Acted as a witness on a discrimination claim
    • Cooperated with an investigation of alleged discrimination
    • Took any other legally protected action in response to discrimination and harassment in the workplace
  • Wage and hour: Federal, state and local wage and hour laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for complaining about illegal wage practices, filing agency complaints or lawsuits or otherwise cooperating with regulators.
  • New York Labor Law Section 740: This provision of the New York Labor Law prohibits employers from taking negative actions against an employee because the employee complained about something that happened at work that he or she believes is illegal or that he or she believes creates a risk to public health or safety.
  • Sarbanes-Oxley: Employees and contractors of publicly traded companies may report suspicions of fraud or Securities and Exchange Commission rules violations both to management within the company and to regulators, if necessary.
  • Dodd-Frank: Financial industry whistleblowers who suffer adverse employment action as a result of their reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission may sue for lost wages and other compensation.
  • False Claims Act: The federal False Claims Act, as well as many states’ similar laws, prohibit retaliation against employees who report or complain about fraud committed against the government. These types of claims often arise in the healthcare setting when an employer lies in connection with receiving Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement.
Ask an Attorney for Guidance and Counsel When You Are a Whistleblower

Reporting illegal activity or discrimination may lead to workplace retaliation and loss of employment. However, clients confirm that having experienced legal counsel by your side can allow whistleblowers to move forward with confidence. The attorney team at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP has fought for whistleblowers and victims of retaliation in all industries—from Wall Street board rooms to New York City restaurant kitchens. Our results in pursuing whistleblower and retaliation claims include:

  • $750,000 settlement for professional employee who complained about race discrimination
  • $575,000 settlement for salesperson who complained about possible Medicare fraud
  • $525,000 settlement for employee in a creative field who cooperated in a discrimination investigation
  • $500,000 settlement for executive who complained about possible Medicaid fraud
  • $490,000 settlement for salesperson who complained about possible Medicaid fraud
  • Settlement of more than $400,000 for creative professional who complained about gender and racial discrimination
  • $100,000 settlement for executive who complained about noncompliance with government regulations

If you are thinking about stepping forward as a whistleblower, or have already done so and are suffering or fear suffering retaliation from your employer, contact us today at 212-688-5640 or reach out to us online using this form or by email: info@jk-llp.com. Se habla español.