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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

Did My Boss Just Ask Me To Do Something Illegal?

When your boss asks you to do something illegal, just say no. Of course, it might not seem that easy especially when you don’t want to lose your job or your boss is blackmailing you in some way. The trouble is that when the illegal action is found out, you could go to jail. No job is worth going to jail over.

Knowing how to handle such a situation means understanding what your legal employee rights are. In fact, you might need to familiarize yourself with whistleblower laws. Agreeing to do something illegal for a boss could follow you the rest of your life.

Gray Areas: Did My Boss Just Ask Me To Do Something Illegal?

Many people think they know what their employee rights are in the workplace. However, some might be operating on false knowledge, believing that paid vacation days or a warning before termination are employee rights. If you suspect that your boss has asked you to do something illegal, research the law to find out if that’s true or not.

It’s possible that you misunderstood what your boss wanted. Give your employer the benefit of the doubt while you try to figure out whether or not they do want you to do something illegal.

1. Check your facts.

A couple of questions can help guide you as you try to figure out whether or not you’ve been asked to do something illegal at work.

  1. What’s possibly illegal?

  2. Which laws are being broken?

  3. How many employees does your employer have?

Some laws only apply to employers with a certain number of employees. Therefore, it’s important to know what laws are involved and if they apply to your employer.

Man and woman bent over papers

Whistleblower Laws

Employees who report illegal employer activity are termed “whistleblowers.” When an employee reports illegal activity, these laws protect them from retaliation from their employer. Employees are often protected when reporting environmental hazards, accounting fraud, financial misconduct, and fraud. The law provides different ways to report illegal conduct, whether internally or externally. It’s important for you to know which law your situation would fall under and how to best report it.

2. Talk with your boss.

Assume that your boss is unaware that what they have asked you to do is illegal. Try to bring it to their attention courteously. After all, this is a better way to handle the situation than to just out rightly blame them of law breaking. Seek to be collaborative rather than adversarial when you try to bring the possible problem to your employer.

3. Repeat the task

When you repeat the task to the boss, they may become aware of why this is not an appropriate request to make of you. If your boss still doesn’t see a problem with it, speak up and explain why this might not have the best consequences for the company.

4. Ask questions

suited man holding notebook paper asking, "Need a lawyer?"

Another strategy to use when feeling out a potentially illegal situation is to ask questions. Ask for the reasoning behind the task. When you show friendly curiosity, this is disarming rather than offensive. And it’s possible that the dialogue might change the situation.

5. Beware of the outcome

To agree to a task that is illegal can ruin your career or place you in jail. If you need to firmly say no to the task, begin taking note of the situation and documenting information. You may need it if you pursue legal action against your employer.

6. Consult an outside legal source

When you’ve done everything that you can to try to resolve the situation in the workplace but your boss still wants you to join in the illegal action, contact an employment lawyer. A lawyer has a nuanced understanding of the law and will know what your rights are. Better yet, a lawyer can guide you to pursuing your legal rights.

If you have been asked to do something illegal at work, contact an employment lawyer who will know how to navigate your case and your rights under the law.

Don’t hesitate, talk to an attorney: (412) 626-5626 or

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