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Whistleblowers Face Challenges in Addition to Backlash in the Workplace

WhistleblowerDiscovering workplace wrongdoing can lead to stress, but there are protections in place that prevent the backlash against you for accusing your employer of breaking the law. Unfortunately, these protections only go so far and many whistleblowers find themselves mired in stress and anxiety when faced with the decision to report wrongdoing against their employer.

Luckily, people familiar with the toll whistleblowing takes on an individual are speaking out and there is reason to believe the judicial system has begun to address the emotional aspects of taking on this role.

If you’ve determined someone in your workplace is breaking the law and you believe it would be appropriate to blow the whistle on the illegal activities going on, what should you know about protecting your own emotional well-being?

Whistleblowers Face Risk of Depression, Anxiety, and More

Research has shown that people who took action to blow the whistle against wrongdoing by their employers suffered from depression, panic attacks, and anxiety at a higher rate than their peers. There is also evidence whistleblowers face a higher risk of relying on alcohol and cigarettes to get them through the stress of speaking out.

You can read more about https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-and-anxiety”>the link between anxiety and alcohol consumption here.

Of course, that’s not to say that everyone who takes action will turn to alcohol or another vice to cope, but there’s no denying whistleblowing will put you under extra stress. The good news is you could be eligible for compensation related to the stress you face when doing the right thing and reporting the illegal actions of your employer.

Proving Emotional Duress is a Challenge

It can be tough to prove emotional duress but more and more these days, judges and juries are taking the emotional toll of whistleblowing into account.

In March 2018, a $3.2 million award for a whistleblower – half of which was awarded for emotional distress - was upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Both the plaintiff and his wife described what he’d gone through when he called attention to the wrongdoing of his employer and testified about the humiliation he felt when he was fired for whistleblowing. He claimed the events had caused months of anguish and difficulty sleeping, and affected his self-esteem and his confidence in providing for his family.

According to the court’s ruling, it was reasonable to assume the plaintiff’s emotional status was directly linked to the employer’s backlash and the economic stress caused by the man’s firing.

This was the first time a court’s ruling officially acknowledged that non-economic damages were available in whistleblowing cases.

Other rulings have failed to acknowledge the emotional toll of whistleblowing and the legal system is still working out just how to weigh the stress whistleblowing causes an employee. Not to mention, it can be difficult to prove emotional distress and to put a dollar amount on them in any case.

Potential for Emotional Distress Shouldn’t Stop You from Doing the Right Thing

If you’ve taken action against your employer and doing the right thing has taken its toll on you, you are not alone. It’s also common for someone to question whether or not they want to speak out about wrongdoing doing because of the backlash that could occur.

If you’re struggling with these issues, we want to help. We’ll discuss your situation with you and help you protect your rights under whistleblower laws. And if you suffer emotionally because of your actions, we can help with that too.

For more information or to discuss an instance of whistleblowing with a professional, contact New York Employment Attorneys Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. for more information.

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