Disciplining whistleblower? Beware retaliation charge

If a supervisor receives a whistleblower complaint from a subordinate, make sure he or she has no decision-making role in any subsequent discipline against the whistleblower.

Recent case: Laura’s co-worker tried to add her son’s girlfriend to her health insurance by stating that the girlfriend was really her niece and was living in her household. Laura reported what she thought was insurance fraud to her supervisor. He initially dismissed Laura’s complaint but eventually investigated. The co-worker was suspended for five days.

Later, the supervisor fired Laura. She sued, alleging retaliation.

A jury awarded her $260,000 in back pay, $100,000 for emotional pain and suffering and another $275,000 in lost future earnings. The award was based largely on the fact that the termination decision fell on the supervisor to which Laura had reported the alleged insurance fraud. (Attorney General of Texas v. Rodriguez, Court of Appeals of Texas, 2017)