Reporting injustice or illegal activity in the workplace can be intimidating. There’s a fear of retaliation or losing your own job for advocating for your rights or the rights of your coworkers.
If you are considering reporting your company, your biggest question is likely “How will making this report affect me?”
New Mexico protects whistleblowers
Legally, whistleblowing on your employer shouldn’t affect you in any way. State law prohibits employers from firing or retaliating against employees who file a complaint, testify, exercise a right or institute a proceeding related to the Human Rights Act, The Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Mining Safety Act, the Radiation Protection Act, Medicaid fraud or seeking workers’ compensation benefits.
Retaliation includes docking your pay, passing you up for promotions you would have received otherwise or making workplace conditions so unpleasant you quit.
While New Mexico follows the at-will employment doctrine, which means either party can terminate the employment agreement at any time for any reason, state and federal laws protect employees in these situations. Firing an employee for whistleblowing would be considered an illegal reason to terminate an employee under the at-will doctrine.
What to do before whistleblowing
Sadly, even though firing and retaliation are illegal in cases of whistleblowing, it can still happen. The best way to protect yourself is to be prepared in advance. When you report the issue to your employer, do so in writing and keep a copy.
When you make a report, document any discriminatory or illegal practices and gather necessary evidence. It would also be helpful to collect evidence about your own employment history – performance reviews, salary history, etc. – to establish the kind of standing you are in with the company before you make a report. That way, you can prove any missed promotions or salary decreases are a result of retaliation.
If you are fired or face retaliation as a result of whistleblowing, know that you have legal rights. Discuss your options with an employment law attorney who is skilled in advocating for employees’ rights in whistleblower and retaliation cases. An employer might try to get away with punishing you for doing the right thing, but you have the right to legal recourse if they do.