By John Swansinger, Partner in the Real Estate and Construction Practice Group at
Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs
We are an Ohio road construction contractor and one of our employees just made a ridiculous claim that we are violating the Ohio workplace safety laws. False! We are a successful and honest company that pays well and we maintain standards higher than legally required to protect our workers. Now, this fool is taking us down the rabbit hole. How do we mitigate the odyssey?
-Safe and Sound
No one likes a tattle tale. No one likes someone who sits idly by as others wreak havoc. Be very careful here as laws have developed to protect whistleblowers and there are teams of lawyers eager to jump in the fray and ON YOU. So before you react by retaliating on this misguided soul, objectively consider the evidence. Drill down with the safety team. Is there another reason why this employee blew the whistle? Is it to avoid termination? To hurt someone internally? Is there a mental health issue?
Yes, there sure is a public interest in protecting decent folks who report wrongdoing by their employer. Ohio’s whistleblower statutes prohibit retaliation against these employees from being terminated or suspended, demoted, transferred or face a wage reduction. This protection is there even if the reporting employee is wrong, so long as the employee’s suspicion was reasonable. Other laws, like the federal False Claims Act, govern federal contractors and offer significant protection to the employee.
Above all, don’t retaliate in any manner and make sure your safety managers are not the real problem. If it turns out you did the deed and you retaliate, you won’t be “safe” for long. YouDig?