Best Ohio Whistleblower Attorney Answer: What should I do if I am being forced to cover up illegal activity? If I get fired for not going along with a cover-up, can I sue for wrongful termination? Can I record meetings with my boss if I think I’m about to be wrongfully fired?
Have you ever heard the expression that “no good deed goes unpunished”? At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, our employment lawyers help employees every day who have been punished at work simply for doing the right thing. These days, our lawyers hear stories all the time of employees being fired or even in criminal trouble for misdeeds at work. But does the law protect those employees who actually fight back against illegal activity at work? The term “whistleblower” gets thrown around a lot, but what protections is a “whistleblower” actually afforded and does the allow someone to go after his or her employer in the event they do not go along with a cover up of illegal activity? You may also be familiar with the saying that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” In a recent case coming out of Michigan (of course), politicians got involved in one heck of a cover-up and threw to the curb any staffers that wouldn’t join in on the cover-up.
Employees who report illegal activity at work may risk retaliation by their employers, including wrongful termination. However, the good news is that there are both state and federal laws that offer protections for whistleblowers. In short, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for reporting a whistleblower claim. In fact, our lawyers have covered the subject extensively on our employment blog. (See What Protections Do I Have As A Whistleblower?; Can I Be Fired For Reporting Financial Fraud At My Company?;and Can I Be Fired For Reporting A Customer’s Illegal Acts?).
Most Ohio whistleblowers claims fall under Ohio Revised Code §4113.52, which makes it unlawful to take any disciplinary or retaliatory action, including firing, against an employee for reporting a whistleblower claim. Forms of retaliation may include, but are not limited to: discharge or termination of employment; suspension; being transferred; or being denied a promotion or salary increases. For example, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for any of the following: reporting unsafe working conditions; reporting suspected illegal conduct; testifying truthfully against an employer; filing a workers’ compensation claim; for having consulted an attorney about possible claims or lawsuits.
In Michigan, some employees decided that they weren’t going to go along with what can safely be described as one of the most bizarre cover-ups ever. It all started when two Michigan lawmakers in the Michigan House of Representativesbegan an affair. Rep. Todd Courser (the link goes to a campaign sign with a picture of his wife and kids) and Rep. Cindy Gamrat became concerned that their affair was going to go public, which would have been trouble for their constituents, not to mention their respective spouses. Rep. Courser decided to stage one of the most unbelievable, and stupid, cover-ups known to mankind to hide his affair with a fellow elected official.
It is hard to follow Rep. Courser’s logic, so bear with us while we do our best to explain. Rep. Courser concocted a fake email from a made up account that purported to uncover serious misconduct and inappropriate behavior by Rep. Courser himself. The email stated that Rep. Courser was addicted to drugs and pornography and had a habit of patronizing male prostitutes. Rep. Courser own words in the email read, in part:
State Rep Courser Caught behind a Lansing nightclub!
Christian conservative or Godless Addicted Monster!
Truth!!! Courser secretly Removed from Caucus several weeks ago due to a male on male paid for sex behind a prominent Lansing nightclub! Action soon coming to remove Courser!
Rep. Courser’s logic behind the fake email was to make the accusations as outlandish and unbelievable as possible so that his constituents would immediately question to veracity of the rumor of the actual affair. Essentially, he wanted to hide the truth in a pile of outlandish lies. Then, when news of Rep. Courser’s affair with Rep. Gamrat were released to the public, Rep. Courser’s constituents would think it is just another made up rumor. Sound smart? We didn’t think so.
Rep. Courser tried to get a staffer to send the above email from a fake account and the staffer refused and, smartly, recorded the meeting where Rep. Courser pressured the staffer to help aid in the cover-up. After refusing to take part in the ridiculous plan set forth by Rep. Courser, the staffer was fired and given no reason other than the staffer was an “at-will employee, no grounds are necessary.”
The staffer filed suit against Rep. Courser and the Michigan House of Representatives in Ingham County, Michigan claiming that he was terminated in retaliation for refusing to participate in the cover-up along with defamation for Rep. Courser claiming that the staffer was fired for poor performance. A main issue surrounding the case will no doubt be whether or not the cover-up was actually illegal, which would be a requirement for the staffer to bring a whistleblower claim. However, ethics laws surrounding politicians should be more than sufficient for the staffer’s lawsuit to move forward. And, by the way, Rep. Courser resigned and Rep. Gamrat was expelled from the House of Representatives.
Luckily for the staffer, he secretly recorded meetings that will be essential to proving his case (secretly recording your employer’s actions is legal in Ohio!!). Many employees do not have such evidence so it is imperative that you go to an experienced employment attorney as soon as you even have a suspicion of illegal activity at work. It could mean all the difference if you are retaliated for not going along with the illegal activity.
To make matters even crazier, Rep. Courser and Rep. Gamrat started getting text messages threatening to release private information if the two did not resign and take other steps. So, the police investigated to see if there was a criminal extortion only to find out that the text messages were being sent from Rep. Gamrat’s husband, Joe Gamrat, in an effort to save his marriage. Which brings us to our last expression that you may have heard of, “sometimes life is stranger than fiction.”
Ohio law provides job protections to those employees that report or oppose illegal or unsafe conduct or work conditions, such as OSHA violations, embezzlement, unlawful discrimination, or patient abuse, to name a few. However, in order to have the protections under the law, there are a lot of steps that each employee must take. That is why it is absolutely critical for any employee confronted with illegal or unsafe conduct or work conditions at work to immediately consult with employment law lawyers in order to make sure that everything is done right. If you wait until you are fired, you may have already lost your claim. Do not wait. If you have seen any illegal or dangerous conduct on your job, then the best thing you can do is call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting Ohio employees from retaliation after blowing the whistle on unlawful and hazardous activities at work.
The materials available at the top of this whistle blower claims page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “what should I do if I am being harassed for reporting…”, “how do I …?”, “Am I …?”, “what should I do if…” or “can my boss fired me for …”, it would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to particular whistleblower claims questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, attorney Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.