Being under scrutiny is unnerving, even if you have nothing to hide. Even if you have been a public speaking superstar since you were on the high school debate team, you can easily turn into an inarticulate mess just because you know that your boss is listening to your presentation. Likewise, the fact that your interlocutors do not trust you and think that you are lying can lead to contradict yourself and misspeak, further undermining your credibility. Your guilty conscience can give you away even if you are 100% innocent. Therefore, being asked to participate in an investigation into alleged ethical misconduct or actual crimes at your workplace is one of the most stressful experiences imaginable. Ethics investigations are an effective way of protecting workers from employment discrimination and protecting the public from fraud, but no matter your role in the investigation, it is no fun when it happens at your place of employment. Whether you are the person whose complaint got the investigation started or if you knew nothing about the alleged misconduct until investigators showed up at your work, you have the right to consult a lawyer in the event of an ethics investigation. To find out more, contact the New York City ethics investigation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
Why Do Ethics Investigations Happen in New York City Workplaces?
Employees have the right to a workplace that is free of safety hazards, discrimination, and unfair practices. Regulatory bodies and the federal and state courts can impose penalties on businesses that violate the rights of workers or the public. They cannot, however, do this arbitrarily or simply based on hearsay. Therefore, when employees complain about wrongdoing by their employers, the law requires a fair investigation into the complaint. These are some common reasons for workplace ethics investigations:
- Alleged discrimination against employees
- Complaints about safety violations
- An accident in the workplace that appears to have been preventable and could indicate unsafe working conditions
- A criminal investigation into the actions of someone connected to the workplace
- A whistleblower claim
Before an employee can file an employment discrimination lawsuit, they must first file a preliminary complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In New York City, the EEOC works in conjunction with the New York Division of Human Rights and the New York Commission on Human Rights. These regulatory bodies investigate the complaints they receive, and only if they determine that the employee has grounds for a discrimination lawsuit can the employee proceed with taking the case to court.
Likewise, if you have evidence that your employer is defrauding the federal government, such as by making false statements in order to receive more federal money than that to which they are entitled, you have the right to file a qui tam action. Pursuant to the federal False Claims Act, if you file a whistleblower action, and the government decides that it has grounds to sue your employer based on your whistleblower complaint, you have the right to receive a percentage of the damages award. This type of whistleblower claim is called a qui tam action, named after a Latin phrase meaning that the whistleblower is complaining “on behalf of himself and of the government.” The False Claims Act has been on the books since 1863, but today, many qui tam actions are about Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
Your Rights in a Workplace Ethics Investigation in NYC
No matter your relationship to the subject matter of the investigation, it is natural to worry that you can get in trouble because of anything you say or do not say to the investigators. Remember that participating in investigations at your workplace is a legally protected activity, which means that it is against the law for your employer to fire you or take some other adverse action against you in retaliation for your participation. Some of the actions that can lead to external investigations are also legally protected activities; these include whistleblower actions, filing discrimination complaints, and reporting workplace safety violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In other words, it is your right to send the messages and file the documents that launch workplace ethics investigations, and your employer does not have the right to punish you for it.
Investigations are uncomfortable and intrusive; it is an unpleasant experience to give official statements about misconduct that you have witnessed or in which you have participated. You have the right to consult with a New York City workplace ethics investigation lawyer at every stage of the process. Likewise, if you have reasonable fear that information that you provide about your past actions could result in you getting criminal charges, you have the right to plead the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution makes it illegal for the state to force someone to confess to a crime. It gives people the right to avoid making self-incriminating statements to authorities, including the right to remain silent when under arrest. You have the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment even in situations where you have not been arrested or charged with a crime.
New York City Workplace Ethics Investigation Attorney
The kinds of official complaints that lead to formal investigations, such as employment discrimination complaints and whistleblower actions, require a lot of planning, but they also require you to meet deadlines. For most employees, filing a complaint about workplace ethics violations is a completely new experience, but the New York City ethics investigation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP have been doing it for years. Your ethics investigation lawyer can help you with the form and content of your complaint and can help you avoid missteps during the investigation.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Ethics Investigations in New York City
The employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you initiate or participate in investigations into alleged misconduct at your workplace. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in New York, New York to set up a consultation.