Statistics show more whistleblower retaliation lawsuits being filed, while the number of whistleblower cases actually getting settled remains flat. Experts urge HR professionals to train managers on handling these claims and documenting whistleblowing employees' performance to stave off charges of retaliation.
"Budget worries facing courts and administrative agencies only compound the issue", adds Mark Spring, a Sacramento, Calif.-based partner in the employment law firm of Carothers DiSante and Freudenberger.
"They're dealing with reduced budgets. As a result, all civil cases in the court system are taking longer to resolve," says Spring, noting that his firm has been experiencing slower response times from federal and state administrative agencies "across the board."
With regard to retaliation-based claims, "there is a general reluctance on the part of judges to award summary judgment to the employer when there is any type of temporal proximity between the whistleblowing report and the termination or adverse action. This makes these cases more challenging to resolve than other types of employment cases."
"And, as long as the economy remains shaky and unemployment rates stay high, the number of whistleblower claims involving retaliation will likely continue climbing," he says. "This ongoing trend could create an uncomfortable environment for employers on the wrong end of a retaliation suit, with many of these employees still on the job while their claims await resolution."