The Consequence of Silence

Many employees in California do complain or refuse to participate in illegal practices and behavior by their employer because they feel such activities are illegal, unfair, immoral or dangerous. For those who have already complained about illegal activities, this Guide will provide you with some tips and resources for moving forward with your complaints.

However, many employees who notice illegal are tempted to stay silent. After all, opposition to retaliation can take many forms and can put the employee at risk for termination, harassment, intimidation and other adverse employment actions by their employer. So many employees understandably choose to remain silent out of fear. Succumbing to this intimidation is a tragedy because it implicitly supports the employer's wrongful and illegal conduct and may put others at risk. For example, if an employee fails to oppose an employer practice that creates unsafe working conditions, other employees or members of the public could be injured by the dangerous conditions. In the case of the United Peanut Company, employees decided to remain silent in the face of very obvious unsafe and unsanitary working conditions at several locations of the company. As a result, several people died of salmonella poisoning. Staying silent can kill.

Remaining silent can also have terrible effects on the employee's emotional and physical health. If the issue involves an unsafe condition in the workplace, the employee places his/her own health at risk by not complaining. Even if it doesn't, the stress that can result from keeping all of the concern and frustration bottled up inside can have very negative effects on the employee who is a witness to the illegal activity, resulting in depression, anxiety, sleeplessness and domestic problems. Some employees who don't complain might not be able to continue working under such stressful situations, resulting in leaves for mental conditions, or worker's compensation or disability claims. Further, employees who do not object to the illegal activity might experience terrible guilt, shame and low self-esteem for not doing the right thing---objecting to the illegal practices.

Some employees go into denial, refusing to believe that their employer could engage in conduct so reprehensible as to put the safety of their workers, or the public in danger. So, they may not push matters too much with their employers, even if situations where they have registered some kind of complaint. Please keep in mind that the frequency of illegal conduct by employers is truly shocking, and behavior engaged in by employers is not infrequently just purely outrageous. For example, in a case currently handled by the Law Offices of Daniel Feder, a supervisor of a food processing plant noticed that knife blades of knives used to cut fresh fruit for packaging were breaking off with great frequency, whilst the company had disabled legally required metal detectors used to catch broken blades because the metal detectors slowed down the work process. In another case, workers at a bread factory were using their bare hands to reach into the dough mixers after using the bathrooms without using their hands. When an employee complained about this, he was retaliated against and terminated for a totally fabricated reason. He recovered substantial damages from the employer after the case was filed.

If you think that your employer is engaged in some kind of "fishy" behavior, they most likely are. In some situations, the conduct is obviously illegal. In others, the conduct may or may not be legal. A free consultation is smart in either situation.

Next Up: What Is Retaliation