When a person or employee exposes misconduct, dishonest or illegal activity occurring in an organization. they can face retaliation at the hands of the organization or group which they have accused. A ‘whistleblower’ may face a reduction in duties precluding promotions, hostility in the work place and wrongful termination as a result of reporting wrongdoing in the work place.
Robert Kobus an FBI employee and whistleblower had a lot of time to think when the FBI stripped him of his duties, assigning him to work as the only person on a vacant floor among empty desks after he reported FBI budget and time card fraud in 2005. In an effort to send a message to other employees about the negative consequences of whistleblowing, the FBI allegedly subjected Kobus to swift retaliation – isolation, a perceived ‘pariah status’ impacting his work relationships, and a change in duties signaling no upward mobility were among the impacts. Loss of employment seemed strangely plausible, despite his earnest intention to ‘do the right thing’.
After a thourough investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the FBI was found guilty of retaliation against Kobus and ordered to take corrective action. However, things moved slowly. It took nine long years for Mr. Kobus to be vindicated by the FBI’s whistleblower process – leaving some speculating that the drawn-out process was just another ploy by the FBI and the DOJ to discourage other employees from acting.
During the March 2015 Senate hearing, Senators Chuck Grassely (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) expressed outrage at the amount of retaliation FBI whistleblowers endure along with the failure of the FBI whistleblower program to appropriately handle such cases. Senator Grassley vehemently expressed that whistleblowers should not face retaliation and should expect timely relief. Senator Leahy echoed this sentiment saying that employees that come forward must have well-developed avenues to report wrongdoing and must be protected from retaliation. Both senators pledged a commitment to fix the FBI’s broken whistleblower process. Kobus, still employed with the FBI, hopes that his experience will foster change to protect other employees.
Reporting wrongdoing in the office should not result in retaliation of any kind. There are strict and clear state and federal laws protecting employees from unfair employment practices, including unfair firings and termination. Sometimes an employee is wrongfully terminated after reporting a safety violation at work or, perhaps, a wage and hour law violation. Other instances include reporting sexual harassment or employment discrimination based on sex, race, physical or mental disability, age or nation of origin.
If you believe you have been wrongly terminated, contact the employment Law Offices of Stoltze & Updegraff, PLC. We help employees in a broad range of employment-related disputes, including employment discrimination, violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Iowa wage and hour law violations, sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Call today.
Source: NPR.org, “A Decade After Blowing The Whistle On The FBI, Vindication”, by Carrie Johnson, April 15, 2015