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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

Witness Intimidation and Retaliation

The law obligates employers to not treat employees differently for their role as a witness for employment issues. However, just because the law makes witness intimidation and retaliation illegal doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. As technology progresses, people are finding new ways to implement and respond to illegal witness intimidation.

Witness Intimidation and Retaliation

Witness intimidation often occurs alongside employment investigations of claims of illegal activity. Employees who speak up about bad treatment become targets for intimidation and retaliation.

Investigation of Workplace Misconduct

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The problem usually begins with an illegal employment action or a workplace misconduct. From there, a claim is made about the issue. The employer must respond by instigating an investigation and must be careful to not intimidate employees.

Intimidation is likely when a high-level employee has been called out for improper behavior. A work community can feel small, and people are likely to take sides. When emotions run high, some people may decide to take matters into their own hands.

Employers must do their best to ensure that witnesses are protected while they investigate the situation.

Investigation Basics 101

Qualified Investigator

A neutral third party can be an asset in an internal investigation. Employees are more likely to open up to a person who has no bias for either side. Furthermore, the investigator should have a neutral business-like manner to avoid more claims of witness intimidation.

Interview Order

The order of interviews can influence the final outcome and decision. If the person being investigated knows they’re being investigated, this can cause more difficulty in the process. Gathering information from other workers is important to determine the full story.

Actual Interview Procedure

Interviews ought to be held off-location and far away from the person that has been accused of wrong action. Employees should never feel forced to participate, answer, or stay in the interview. However, the employee can be told that without their participation that certain conclusions may be assumed based on the available information.

Pause Work Reports

Although performance reviews may be due and may be considered unrelated to the investigation, all work reports should be paused until after the investigation is completed. If a witness is terminated due to job performance, he or she may try to bring a claim against the employer for witness retaliation.

Types of Witness Intimidation

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Intimidation of witnesses can be as simple as verbal threats or become more complex. Desperation can be a powerful motivator for someone who doesn’t want to be caught and punished. Employers must be careful of witness intimidation tampering with what truly happened.

Threats of Harm

Sometimes to bend a witness away from speaking the truth, they or their family may be threatened with harm. This is illegal.

Deadly Weapon Intimidation

When a deadly weapon is used in a threat towards a witness, this illegal action becomes aggravated intimidation of a victim or witness.

Ruining Property

Threatening or ruining property owned by the witness to send a message to the witness about not testifying truthfully is illegal.

Power of Persuasion

Convincing a witness to not testify, skip their interview, or avoid legal action is considered against the law as well.

Witness Bribery

Offering the witness money or property or some other benefit in exchange for not telling the full truth or avoiding the legal process.

Social Media Bullying

Technology allows people to anonymously intimidate and threaten witnesses, sharing their photos publicly and cutting away at their privacy.

Witness intimidation and retaliation is against the law. Individuals who try to intimidate or threaten a witness are subject to the law. Therefore, employers should do their best to protect employees from intimidation and retaliation.

Chat with an employment attorney: (412) 626-5626 or

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