What happens to employees when businesses are being investigated for ethics violations under Ohio or federal law? in many cases, employees’ privacy and other human rights can be trampled on because their employers are under investigation. Ohio businesses have a legal responsibility to conduct their business fairly and unbiasedly. The government has enacted laws to protect employees, ensuring employers don’t take advantage of innocent employees if they are being investigated.
Why Do I Need an Attorney as an Employee?
Is your employer being investigated for an ethics violation in Ohio? Do you feel that your employer is violating your rights? In that case, it is important that you discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible. Your employer may have attorneys representing the company, but those attorneys are not representing you as an employee. Discussing your case with an employment attorney can help you understand your rights and protect yourself.
If your company is being investigated for an ethics violation, your employer may have violated your employee’s rights. If you have questions about your rights and the investigation process, HKM Employment Attorneys are here to help you. We have a proven track record of protecting employees whose employers are under investigation.
The Causes of Ethics Investigations into Employers
Ethics investigations can result from many different types of unethical situations. The FBI and other federal agencies may investigate an employer for white-collar crimes. Federal investigations can take months or even years before individuals are brought up on charges. During these lengthy investigations, employees’ rights may be violated. In other cases, a business may be under investigation for discrimination against employees in protected classes based on their race, age, gender, physical disability, sexual orientation, or other categories.
An employer may be under investigation for retaliating against employees for taking medical leave or seeking disability benefits, actions that are protected by federal and state law. Businesses facing ethical or legal claims against them generally conduct an internal investigation. These internal investigations can also result in employees’ rights being violated. Whatever the cause of the ethics investigation into your employer, an attorney can help you understand your rights and navigate the investigation.
Workplace Ethics Laws in Ohio
The federal government and the state of Ohio have multiple laws prohibiting specific types of unethical or wrongful Behavior by employers. Ohio’s anti-discrimination law, called the Ohio Fair Practices Act, Protects employees in specific classes from harassment or discriminatory treatment in the workplace. The Ohio Fair Practices Act protects employees working for employers with four or more employees. Ohio’s law protects more classes of employees than similar federal anti-discrimination laws. The protected classes under Ohio’s law income the following:
- National origin,
- Gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions),
- Age (40 and older),
- Citizenship status,
- Genetic information,
- Military status, and
- Caring for a close family member while in the armed service
Ohio’s law does not specifically protect employees from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. However, employees may be able to characterize a claim involving those character traits as a gender discrimination claim. Additionally, federal law protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Protecting Employees’ Privacy Rights During Ethics Investigations in Ohio
Sometimes, a business will conduct an internal investigation in response to a claim that they’ve engaged in an ethics violation. During these internal investigations, employers are legally obligated to protect employees’ privacy rights. Employers must carefully balance their right to investigate ethics violation claims against them and take disciplinary action with their employee’s right to be free from an unreasonable invasion of their privacy.
For example, If an employer asks an employee to divulge information during an investigation, the employee could potentially face defamation claims. Defamation is defined as a false and unprivileged oral or written communication to a third party that causes an injury to the employee’s reputation. Employers are privileged to share defamatory information with those who have demonstrated a “need to know” the information.
Individuals conducting the investigation have a need to know so they can implement disciplinary action when necessary. However, this privilege can only be recovered if the information is communicated to people who need to know or are not company employees. If you have been the victim of leaked defamatory statements made against you during an investigatory process, you should discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible.
Protecting Clients During Surveillance or Searches
Companies conducting internal investigations into ethics violations may engage in searches or even surveillance of employees. Employees have a right to be free from invasions of their privacy. Employers cannot violate wiretapping laws to investigate ethics violations. The company has a duty to inform employees in writing that their calls are being monitored. Even when employers provide notice to employees about the surveillance, they still have an obligation to conduct surveillance reasonably. Employers must be able to prove that they have a legitimate business-related reason for conducting the investigation.
When employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and employers violate that privacy, they may have a valid legal claim against their employers. Employees should understand and be aware of company policies allowing employers to conduct reasonable searches of computers, files, desks, and other personal work areas when employees are suspected of misconduct. Internal investigations and ethics violations may be necessary but can also violate employees’ privacy rights. HKM Employment Attorneys is here to help you.
Discuss Your Case With an Ohio Ethics Investigation Attorney
Is your employer conducting an internal investigation because of claims of ethics violations? Do you suspect federal or state law enforcement agencies are investigating your employer? if so, it is important that you work with an attorney who can help you protect yourself. Contact HKM Employment Attorneys as soon as possible to schedule your case evaluation.