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Can an Employee Be Forced Into Breaking a Law at Work?
Can an Employee Be Forced Into Breaking a Law at Work?

Can an Employee Be Forced Into Breaking a Law at Work?

Employers who force a worker into breaking the law, whether for personal interest or gain, may use their authority to take advantage of an employee’s subordinate position. However, an employee still is subject to criminal prosecution even if they feel they have no other choice.

Employees cannot be forced into breaking the law, as the whistleblower statutes offer employees protection. Public policy in California allows employees to notify law enforcement or government authorities about unlawful workplace activities. Reporting may also extend to a supervisor or an employee who is authorized to review a violation.

Employees enjoy this privilege under the state’s Labor Code, section 1102.5. Whistleblower laws protect the public at large and help in regulating industries such as aviation and trucking. They protect the environment as well as the economy. 

How Whistleblower Laws Protect Workers and What May Happen

Because whistleblower laws are designed to safeguard workers, employees are encouraged to inform employers if a supervisor or employee is involved in unlawful activities. 

Also, due to the protection the law provides, employees are protected from being terminated if they report fraud or unethical activities or if they choose to take part in a related investigation.

However, to acquire protection, the worker may have to report misconduct to a supervisor, governmental agency, or another employee who has authority to investigate, discover, or correct the misconduct. If the employee does not follow this mandate, they may or may not receive protection. Also, the law may require an agency to investigate and determine if the activity is taking place.

Laws shield employees who refuse to commit an unlawful act, whether or not the misconduct is reported. Besides whistleblower protection, employees may find protection by partnering with a lawyer who can show that the activities of an employer violate public policy. If an employee is let go through retaliation, they may still find relief by filing a wrongful termination lawsuit.

This type of action may show that the firing is against public policy – a policy that encourages honest activities from employees. Reporting safety issues, fraud, and other misconduct, after all, is good for society. An employer’s dismissal of an employee forfeits the employee’s right to do the right thing.

What an Employee Should Do About an Unlawful Work Request

When a boss asks an employee to do something unlawful, it may cause the employee to feel forced between a rock and a hard place. However, there are several methods an employee can use until they can contact an attorney.

Employees need to make sure they understand what their boss is saying and ask questions as well. Also, it’s important to ask the boss to repeat the request and ask why the request is being made. What is their reason for asking the employee to take on this type of assignment?

If the boss insists on continuing with the request, an employee may consider one of several actions.

  • An employee might send their boss an email to restate the request and wait for a response. If the boss does not back down, the employee should record, in writing, what the boss requested and reply why they are choosing not to comply.
  • An employee may also speak to their boss’s supervisor about the issue for feedback. It’s helpful to get the request in writing as evidence.
  • Speaking to the manager in the company’s HR department may help as well.
  • An employee may also respond by saying “no” while explaining the reasons for refusing to go ahead with the proposed activity. 
  • An employee also can refuse the request and report it to an employee who has authority to investigate, discover or correct the noncompliance. 

Any move that is made should also involve legal representation. Employees are protected when it comes to reporting unlawful workday activities. Therefore, they need to make sure they understand their rights in this respect.

Contact Minnis & Smallest to Discuss a Whistleblower Claim

Employees have the right to protect themselves against corruption or safety violations at work. Schedule an appointment with an attorney at Minnis & Smallets to ensure everyone is protected and can enjoy a comfortable workplace environment.

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