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Participants in illegal action don’t lose whistle-blower protection

by on
in Human Resources

Franklin Gold didn't get along with his supervisor at the landfill. When the supervisor hit Gold with a six-month probation for spilling leachate, Gold went to the big boss and told him that worse violations were going on at the landfill and his supervisor had even ordered some of the actions. Both men were put on paid leave pending investigation.

The supervisor was given the choice of resigning or being fired. Gold was simply canned. Gold sued, claiming that he was illegally retaliated against for being a whistle-blower.

The result: Even though Gold participated in some of the acts that he reported, a court said he still may be protected under the state's whistle-blower law. (Gold v. City of College Station, No. 01-98-01056-CV, Texas CA, 2001)

Advice: It is common for whistle-blower cases to arise when one bad apple claims the whole bunch is rotten. Your obligation is to investigate the allegations and figure out who is responsible.

While you cannot retaliate against someone for being a whistle-blower, that status doesn't make the employee bulletproof.

The whistle-blower's illegal or unethical conduct may merit termination, but be cautious and consult with an attorney before making any final decisions. In this case, Gold was apparently the only worker terminated, even though other landfill employees committed violations.

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