Everyone complains, and most of the time, you can tune it out; thanks to the Internet, though, complaints are now more public and more permanent than ever. It is not the grumbles on the Internet review sites that can have the biggest impact on the future of employees and businesses, though; online reputation management is just a normal part of operating a business. The most serious allegations, if they are credible, take place not on online forums but in the form of formal complaints that lead to investigations. Initiating an investigation of a company where you have witnessed misconduct and breaches of ethics, and so is dealing with an investigation into your company. If you are in either of those situations, the Minneapolis workplace ethics investigation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you.
Investigations Into Allegations of Workplace Discrimination
The law prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of legally protected characteristics related to the employee’s ancestry, identity, or health. Even though the days when workplaces could post signs prohibiting racial and ethnic minorities from applying are over, workplace discrimination persists, and it takes many forms. These are some of the characteristics on the basis of which employers may not discriminate against employees or job applicants:
- Race, color, or ethnicity
- Religion or lack of religious belief
- Sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation
- Marital status or current or future status as a parent
- Age, if the applicant or employee is 40 years of age or older
- Receiving public assistance or having received it in the past (according to Minnesota law)
- Participating in a human rights organization (according to Minnesota law)
Discrimination can take many forms, including but not limited to unjustified termination of employment or refusal to hire employees who belong to a protected category. You have grounds for an employment discrimination lawsuit if, for example, you and other people of color did not receive promotions while white colleagues, even those with less experience than you, did. You also have grounds to sue your employer for discrimination if you got fired with little explanation shortly after you got married and requested to add your same-sex spouse to your employer-provided health insurance policy.
Sometimes, though, employment discrimination is not a single incident, and the employer does not explicitly state that the employee’s protected characteristic is the reason for the discriminatory action. It can even take the form of work supervisors treating you disrespectfully and devaluing your work. Many discrimination complaints also begin when an employer requests a disability accommodation or proposes a strategy to improve inclusivity in the workplace, and then the employer retaliates. The retaliation may not be anything as obvious as termination of employment; it could just be increased scrutiny of the employee’s work or a generally hostile work environment. Federal law prohibits retaliation in response to an employee’s discrimination complaint or request for reasonable accommodations for a disability. In addition to these, Minnesota law also prohibits retaliation against employees who participate in investigations related to discrimination or human rights.
If an employer shows a pattern of discrimination against employees who belong to a certain group, then this can result into an investigation into discrimination by that employer. Therefore, as an employee, it is important to document every incident of discrimination you experience at work, both for your own sake and for that of other employees who have faced similar discrimination.
Investigations Into Whistleblower Allegations
In employment law terms, a whistleblower is an employee who notifies authorities about unethical or illegal activities at the employee’s workplace. These activities could take the form of the company or its leaders fraudulently or unjustly enriching themselves at the expense of clients, or it could take the form of widespread mistreatment of employees or of the intended beneficiaries of the company’s services.
The law offers protections for employees who try to protect future victims of the employer’s abusive actions by notifying authorities of the misconduct. Breaking the silence about wrongdoing by your employer carries the risk of retaliation in the form of losing your job; if the unethical behavior you have exposed as a whistleblower is widespread in your industry, you might even have trouble finding another job. Your Minneapolis employment lawyer will advise you on how to protect your financial security while protecting others from the corruption and misconduct that you have witnessed at work.
Whistleblower lawsuits by companies that provide services or products to the federal government fall into their own category called qui tam actions. When private businesses defraud the federal government (such as by over-charging for services), the taxpayers suffer financial losses, so the government encourages employees who witness fraudulent dealings to come forward with their evidence of the fraud. In a qui tam action, the government entity defrauded by the company sues the company; if a court awards damages to the government entity, the whistleblower is entitled to a share of those damages, to compensate the whistleblower for leaving a lucrative and stable job. In addition, if any of your former co-workers get criminal charges for their fraudulent activity, your role as a whistleblower will help protect you from criminal prosecution.
Accusations of Abuse and Neglect by Professional Caregivers
Abuse and neglect in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and childcare centers is one of the most serious forms of misconduct by employers. Caregivers who mistreat the children and vulnerable adults they have been hired to protect can face criminal charges, in addition to the civil penalties that can result for the employer. If you work for a nursing home, assisted living facility, children’s daycare, group home for teens in foster care, or in-home health aide service, and the intended beneficiaries of your employer are not receiving the care they need, an employment lawyer can advise you on how best to intervene.
Contact a Minneapolis Ethical Investigations Lawyer
You should not have to choose between your moral conscience and earning a living. Although it may be risky to speak out about unethical or illegal behavior at your place of employment, it is in your interest to speak out about it, as well as in the interest of the people who have been harmed physically or financially because of your employer’s misconduct. If you have faced discrimination by your employer, you are probably not the only one. An employment lawyer can guide you through the next steps. Contact the Minneapolis ethical investigation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.