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Whistleblowers should watch out for retaliatory behavior

If you've decided to report an employer's unethical or illegal behavior, you should feel good about doing the right thing. Unfortunately, instead of praise for their courage, many whistleblowers face backlash from their employers and coworkers.

Luckily, Michigan law has your back, protecting whistleblowers against wrongful termination and other forms of retaliation by employers. But it's important to watch your own back as well, especially given the state's very short statute of limitations.

In Michigan, whistleblowers have only 90 days to report wrongful termination or retaliation, so it's best to be prepared if you are starting to worry this could happen to you. While giving your employer the opportunity to do what's right, you can still take these three steps to make sure you're prepared for the worst.

Learn to recognize retaliatory behaviors.

It's not a bad idea to be especially watchful after you decide to report of unethical or illegal behavior by your employer. There's no need to be paranoid, but you should keep your eye out for unusual behaviors from your boss or coworkers that might be retaliatory. You may be experiencing retaliatory behaviors if you are:

  • denied promotions or pay raises
  • demoted or suddenly given less desirable work assignments
  • suspended or fired
  • threatened or intimidated
  • denied pay, bonuses or benefits

Take notes.

If you notice any of the above behaviors suddenly directed at you, it's a good idea to start keeping a record right away. Taking notes can also help you see patterns of behavior, and it will be much easier to address the problem if you can describe in detail what's been going on.

Know when to contact a lawyer.

In some cases, you may be able to talk to your human resources department or supervisor to resolve the problem, but serious cases often require legal assistance.

You may have heard this one already: you can be fired for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason, but you can't be fired for an illegal reason. Whistleblower protections don't mean an employer can never fire a whistleblower - they just can't fire you because you acted as a whistleblower.

If you've recently acted as a whistleblower, you don't want to too easily rule out the possibility that negative effects you're experiencing are related. If you've been taking notes and think your negative experiences aren't just a coincidence, it's a good idea to consult with an attorney experienced with employment law to ensure your rights are protected.

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