Whistle-blowing employees almost always expect to experience retaliation. They start looking for it as soon as they file a complaint or bring a safety issue to their employers’ attention.
Smart employers anticipate this and make absolutely sure that any discipline, layoff or other adverse employment action is wholly justified before they implement it. By assuming the worst—that a lawsuit is coming—they put their organizations on the best possible footing.
Recent case: Dartheatus Lloyd worked for Los Angeles County on and off between 1991 and 2006. In 1995, he became a permanent insulation technician, but was laid off in 2003.
The county rehired him as a temporary employee in 2004. He worked in that capacity until January 2006, when he was laid off for a second time.
Lloyd sued, claiming the layoff was retaliation for a complaint he had filed concerning the way the county handled asbestos removal, including charges that he had to remove the material without the required certification.
Lloyd pointed out that right after he was laid off, the county posted a job opening for a position like his. He argued that was evidence that his selection for a layoff was motivated by his whistle-blowing.
But the county was ready with clear documentation showing that budget constraints were the reason for the layoffs. Step by step, the county went through each layoff.
It explained the business reason for each one and why Lloyd was one of the employees who lost his job.
It also explained to the court that the job announcement Lloyd cited actually proved that his case was unfounded. The county had posted it accidentally and withdrew it almost immediately without interviewing or hiring anyone. Plus, the county showed the court that Lloyd was laid off because he was the least senior technician.
The court ruled for the county. (Lloyd v. County of Los Angeles, No. B-200505, Court of Appeal of California, 2009)
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