For most people, going to work is fairly normal and uneventful outside of the typical happenings within the workplace. Sometimes, however, businesses engage in shady or illegal dealings. Regardless of the motivation, be it greed or desperation, there are actions you should take if your employer asks you to do something illegal.
Get a Lawyer
The pressure to perform illegal acts when asked by your employer can be huge, especially if you feel your job is on the line. If you refuse, your employer may feel threatened by you and fire you as a result. While laws regarding terminating employees will vary from state to state, this isn’t considered a good practice anywhere, even in states with at-will employment laws. In fact, you may have grounds to sue for wrongful termination. You may find it beneficial to retain a lawyer to represent your case, or at least see them for a consultation. Initial consultations are often free of charge, so you don’t really have anything to lose.
Become a Whistleblower
Finding out your employer is engaged in illegal activity can be scary. It’s easy to keep your head down and pretend you don’t know anything. That can potentially make you complicit, however. Instead, you can become a whistleblower and report your employer to the proper authorities. Depending on the infraction and the whistleblower laws where you live, that might mean reporting to your superior or a government agency. If you are concerned about retaliation for reporting illegal activity, the law is on your side. Whistleblower protections prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who file complaints.
If you are asked to perform illegal activities at work, you need to document as much as you can. Make sure you have all of the facts and as much of a complete understanding of the situation as possible. Take notes at meetings. Save copies of written communications, such as texts or emails. Depending on your state’s laws about recording conversations, you may be able to record spoken conversations to further support your claims. Having proof to back up your statements will support your position and help avoid a he said, she said scenario.
Being asked to do something illegal in the course of performing your job duties isn’t normal, and should never happen. If it does, however, it’s a good idea to know what to do. You may need to retain a lawyer. You can become a whistleblower and protect your fellow employees from being asked to do the same. Make sure you document everything along the way. These actions can help you position yourself to come out on top of the mess you’ve been put in by your employer.
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