Legal Review: Workplace Retaliation Has Doubled, Says Ethics & Compliance Initiative

By employment law attorney Tom Spiggle, who is barred and practices in the state of Virginia, with The Spiggle Law Firm.

More than ever before, US businesses are reporting wrongdoing, with a corresponding increase in retaliation against the employee who reports it, according to the Global Business Ethics Survey (GBES), the 11th biannual survey given by the Ethics & Compliance Initiative’s (ECI) headquartered in Arlington, VA.

The GBES attempts to analyze business practices and track misconduct in the workplace and patterns in reporting misconduct and retaliation against employees.

A survey was taken in December analyzing 5,000 employees in the US and another was given to workers in other countries.

In March, ECI announced that over the last two years, this rate has doubled. Sixty-nine percent of American employees said that they have reported misconduct at their workplace. However, 44% of those employees who responded to the survey said that their employer has retaliated against them for reporting this information; this rate was only 22% five years ago.

Retaliation against an employee occurs when an employee reports an incidence of discrimination, unsafe environments or illegal activity and the employer then acts in a way that threatens, fires, demotes, discriminates or otherwise acts in a hostile way against that employee as a direct result of that reporting.

Although retaliation is prohibited in the US against employees, it is difficult to prove a causal connection between the employee’s action and the employer’s subsequent behavior.

“This survey shows that employers still need to be aware of workplace misconduct and strengthen ethical standards in their organizations. Unethical behavior is on the rise in workplaces around the globe,” said Tom Spiggle, Principal at The Spiggle Law Firm located in Washington, D.C. “Employees have the right to be compensated and bring employment claims against their employers when unethical behavior persists, and employers punish workers for reporting unethical and even illegal behavior.”

In addition, ECI surveyed 18,000 employees globally in 18 countries. They found that 40% of employees worldwide reported a weak ethical culture in their workplace, and 16% still felt pressure to compromise ethical standards. However, the rate of observed misconduct has decreased in the past five years to 15%.

Some findings include that India has both the highest rate of reporting of observed misconduct (82%) and the highest rate of retaliation against people who reported this misconduct (74%). 46% of employees in Brazil report pressure to compromise ethical standards (46%), the highest rate, while only 10% in Spain do, the lowest rate.

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