Recent Case Highlights Importance of Retaining Legal Counsel During Internal Investigations
If a business or organization becomes aware of potential wrongdoing by one of its employees, it should conduct a thorough internal investigation to get to the bottom of the issue. During this process, the company’s attorneys and investigators may interview workers, collect documentation and gather various other forms of data and information related to the case.
A recent decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit indicates that employers are indeed justified in terminating any employees who do not comply with these investigations. This includes denying these individuals severance benefits.
At issue in this recent case, Gilman v. Marsh & McLennan Cos., was the fact that Gilman, an employee of Marsh & McLennan, declined to participate in an ongoing internal investigation. Because of this, the firm decided to fire Gilman, who then sued, claiming that the company violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and was liable for breach of contract.
According to the Second Circuit decision, Marsh & McLennan’s order for Gilman to participate in the investigation was reasonable. As a result, the firm was within its legal right to fire the employee.
A difficult decision for employees
Legal scholars believe that his issue will become even more relevant in the future, especially in the wake of the September 2015 “Yates Memo” from the U.S. Department of Justice. This memo emphasized individual responsibility for corporate violations, which means more employees across the country will likely face the same choice as Gilman — whether or not to cooperate with a company’s internal investigations. It’s best to work with an experienced attorney to determine your best steps moving forward.
If you are aware of wrongdoing within your organization and would like to explore your options for becoming a whistleblower, consult a dedicated attorney at Whistleblower Law for Managers in Dallas, Texas.