“Is what happened to me illegal ‘Retaliation’?”

Question: Until recently, I worked as the Office Manager of a medical facility. I have 12 years experience in medical management, and was responsible for compliance issues.

Recently, I discovered several compliance issues, including (a) incorrect medical billing, (b) refusal to pay overtime to employees who were due it, and (c) OSHA safety issues, as well. I reported these to the owner of the company, and she told me to “Just do what we tell you to do.”

After I took a two-week leave of absence for medical reasons, I was abruptly fired as soon as I returned. I was told to resign, or be terminated. When I chose termination, I was offered two weeks of severance in return for signing a general release of claims.

Could this be a case of illegal retaliation?

Deborah
Chicago, Illinois

Answer: It sure sounds like it.

Illegal Retaliation has three components: (1) The employee engaged in a “protected activity,” (2) the employee suffered a negative employment action, and (3) there was a causal connection between the “protected activity” and the “negative employment action.”

(1) Protected Activity: The reporting of, and objecting to, violations of state and federal law regarding medical billing, non-payment of overtime, and federal occupational safety regulations are each “protected activities.”

(2) Negative Employment Action: Being fired is the quintessential “negative employment action.”

(3) Causal Link Between (1) and (2): Causal link is always the most difficult part to prove, because it is something “inside the brain.” That is, did the owner of the business fire you because you complained about these illegal activities, or for some other more legitimate reason? Only she knows for sure, and she might not know for sure, either. This is always a matter of “What makes the most sense?”

If you have not signed a severance agreement, including a general release, I suggest you consult with an attorney in Chicago who is experienced in counseling and representing employees in such disputes, as you seem to have a “good retaliation case.”

If you would like to obtain a list of five or more experienced employee-side employment attorneys in your city, just [click here.]

Hope that is helpful.

Best, Al Sklover

© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.