Most professions have implied or explicitly stated codes of ethical behavior that members of the profession must follow. For example, physicians must take the Hippocratic Oath, and the licensing exams for many professions require candidates to demonstrate knowledge of their professions’ standards of professional etiquette. The specifics vary from one profession to another, but they almost always involve taking reasonable care to avoid physical harm to workers and to beneficiaries of the company’s services. They also include honest business practices and not defrauding clients. If an employee or client complains to the company’s decision makers or to a regulatory body about ethical violations in your workplace, the next step in determining whether the allegations are credible is to conduct an internal or external investigation. Workplace ethics investigations are stressful for everyone, but if there is an investigation going on at your workplace, the Charlotte workplace ethics investigation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you fulfill your legal responsibilities and protect your rights.
What is an Ethics Investigation?
Many companies have internal policies that enable employees to complain about discrimination and other violations of professional ethics that they witness in the workplace. The human resources office is usually the first point of contact for complaints about ethical violations. In some cases, it is appropriate to complain to a regulatory body that deals with a certain set of rules relevant to the workplace, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for workplace safety violations or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for discrimination complaints.
No matter the nature of the complaint, an ethics investigation means that your workplace will be under scrutiny by people who do not usually observe your work and your interactions with your co-workers in so much detail, if at all. If your workplace is under investigation because of a complaint filed by someone other than you, then you are in an unenviable position because anything you say or do not say could get you on the bad side of one or more of your work supervisors, or even get you in trouble with the lawyer. Even if you are not the person who filed the complaint or about whose actions someone else has complained, it helps to have someone on your side who has thorough knowledge of the laws involved. Therefore, the sooner you contact the Charlotte workplace ethics investigator lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP, the less damaging the investigation will be to your career, finances, and mental health.
Investigations Into Discrimination Complaints
Federal law protects employees against workplace discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, and disability. North Carolina state law additionally protects you against discrimination based on current or previous service in the U.S. Armed Forces and on having tested positive for HIV, hemoglobin C trait, or sickle cell trait, whether or not these medical conditions have ever caused symptoms. The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who file complaints about discrimination or who request reasonable accommodations for a disability. It also prohibits your employer from retaliating against you if you participate in an investigation about discrimination or denial of accommodations, whether or not you are the person who complained. If investigators ask you questions in the context of a workplace discrimination investigation, it can be hard to know what to say when your statements are part of what determines whether the people you work with every day, and on whom your job depends, will get in trouble. The best way to protect yourself from becoming the next target of retaliation is to work with the Charlotte workplace ethics investigator lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
Qui Tam Actions and Allegations by Whistleblowers
A whistleblower is someone who notifies authorities about unethical activities going on in the workplace. The unethical activities could be anything from disregard for workplace safety to negligent handling of clients’ confidential information to a workplace culture of widespread sexual harassment of women employees. Some whistleblowers even expose financial crimes, such as fraud, embezzlement, or identity theft, in which their employers are participating. Acting as a whistleblower means that you are putting yourself at risk of retaliation, even though you could be saving numerous clients or coworkers from financial losses or further discriminatory behavior. In some cases, your choice to act as a whistleblower could even save people’s lives. The most successful whistleblowers about breaches of ethics in the workplace act strategically with the help of workplace ethics lawyers.
The False Claims Act is a federal law dating back to the time of the United States Civil War. It specifically concerns whistleblowers whose employers provide goods or services to the federal government in exchange for pay. Some examples of these employers are companies that manufacture equipment for the military and doctors who accept payment through Medicare and Medicaid. To report an incident of your employer defrauding the federal government (such as by knowingly selling defective goods to the government or inflating prices when billing Medicare), you can file a qui tam action. In a qui tam lawsuit, if the government sues your employer and wins, the court gives you a share of the damages it awards.
Ethical Violations by Professional Caregivers
The worst workplace ethics violations involve not only financial abuse but also physical abuse. If you work for a school, daycare, nursing home, residential facility for people with disabilities, or group home for teens in foster care, it is your legal and moral duty to report abuse against the children or vulnerable adults in your care. In some cases, you can even receive criminal penalties for failure to report instances of abuse if you become aware of these instances. If you are worried about retaliation, you should hire a lawyer.
Contact a North Carolina Employment Lawyer About Ethics Violations
An employment lawyer can help you make the right decisions when initiating or participating in a violation of workplace ethics. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Charlotte, North Carolina to set up a consultation.