In 2020, the Wall Street Journal published a story alleging that energy company ExxonMobil inflated its production estimates and the value of some of its Texas oil and gas wells in documents it filed with the Securities Exchange Commission. Later that year, it fired two of its scientists, one purportedly for mishandling confidential information and the other for having a negative attitude.
An investigation by the federal Occupational and Health Administration (OSHA) revealed ExxonMobil’s excuses for the firings were pretextual and that the workers were actually dismissed due to company suspicions that they were the sources for the Journal story. The information provided to the newspaper accurately described ExxonMobil’s conduct, and following the inquiry into the alleged retaliation, OSHA ordered the company to pay these two whistleblowers $800,000 in damages.
Employees who blow the whistle on corporate fraud and other improper acts help to protect shareholders, consumers, taxpayers, their fellow employees and other victims. However, even accurate reports of misconduct put workers at risk of termination and other punishments if they’re caught. The ExxonMobil terminations demonstrate how serious these situations can be. To protect whistleblowers from retaliation and encourage employees to expose corporate wrongdoing, Congress enacted laws, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Dodd-Frank Act and the False Claims Act, that guard against corporate malfeasance and include provisions to protect or reward whistleblowers.
Despite whistleblower laws, many companies still use various retaliatory tactics against honest employees. For instance, the employer might try to allege that the whistleblower’s report disclosed trade secrets or constituted industrial espionage. Negative evaluations based on the whistleblowing or other issues can lead to demotions or dismissals. To evade detection, the company might wait months before firing the whistleblower. Regardless of the specific methods used, you need a whistleblower rights attorney to represent you and prove the truth if you believe you were punished for reporting misconduct on the part of your employer.
If you do successfully prove retaliation, you may recover damages to compensate you for the wages and benefits you lost from being fired. Other remedies could include compensation for the emotional distress caused by the company’s action, reinstatement to your position and an injunction barring future retaliation against you. In some cases, you might also receive punitive damages, to punish the company for its outrageous conduct.
Located in Houston, the Law Offices of David C. Holmes will fight to safeguard your rights as a Texas whistleblower. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call 713-586-8862 or contact us online.