My direct supervisor has repeatedly performed actions that go against conduct of the company and of the state laws. I brought this to the attention of his boss in hopes of covering for myself when and if he eventually gets caught.

My direct supervisor's boss proceeded to tell my direct supervisor, and by extension the rest of the department, everything I had said.

I am being greeted with nothing but negativity and am being treated unfairly (have more tasks assigned to me that I can handle, negative repercussions for not completing these large requests, etc.)

What, if anything, am I able to do in this situation? I'd rather not leave because I have nothing to fall back on at the moment. I have tried contacting HR, but I need to have an appointment set up through the boss because the HR department does not have a location in our building. They only respond by appointment.

I live in the United States. More specifically the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

  • 5
    Had you raised the issue with your direct supervisor before approaching his boss?
    – Shaggy
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 23:08
  • Hmm yeah good point. It's too late. Already archived. Will keep in mind for future though. ;)
    – anon
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 23:08
  • 29
    You're getting a lot of different answers here and it would probably help to better understand the nature of this illegal activity, if only some sense of scale. Is your boss using freemium software without paying the $10 for a corporate licence, is he bullying someone, or maybe laundering drug money through the company accounts? How you move forward really depends on how illegal this thing is. You don't want to make a mountain out of a molehill, but at the same time you don't want to be hanged with the crew either. It really depends on what, exactly, has been going on.
    – J...
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 18:50
  • Also, it really matters whether you yourself have taken part in this illegal activity. If it's just your boss doing something that you might not know about or might plausibly not know about, then it's much less your concern than if you've been asked to, or have, participated, either knowingly or unknowingly, in this illegal activity.
    – J...
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 18:52
  • 1
    What is the illegal behaviour ? "I am being greeted with nothing but negativity and am being treated unfairly" What does that mean ? They don't believe you ? They believe you but think it is not a problem to do these illegal things ?
    – agemO
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 9:42

9 Answers 9


You've witnessed something illegal. By law, you are most likely required to report it to a federal agency, not your supervisor's boss. In other words, having told the boss, you haven't actually done anything to protect yourself legally. In fact, you may be considered complicit.

The simplest solution is to forget about getting along with these folks, and find a new job.

However, you could also contact a lawyer, outline the situation, and probably take them to court. There's two reasons for this:

  1. The discrimination you're facing is likely illegal in pretty much any western country you care to name. Some companies end up having to pay out a lot of money for that sort of behavior.

  2. You have no idea how your supervisor - or his boss - may react to the fact that you have knowledge of their illegal operations. It may sound a little paranoid, but they could conceivably try to pin some sort of blame on you. Speaking to a lawyer about your liability in this situation should be the bare minimum you do whether you take them to court or not.

If you do decide to speak to a lawyer (which I strongly recommend), then don't give your employers any hint of it, and don't quit before you do. You may be advised by the lawyer to gather evidence in your defense, etc.

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 18:33
  • 138
    "Discrimination" in your point #1 may not be the best word here. Since this is in response to the OP reporting a problem in good faith, retaliation may be more appropriate.
    – bta
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 21:10
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    "However, you could also contact a lawyer, outline the situation, and probably take them to court." I would rephrase to something like "you should also contact a lawyer", for the reasons you outline immediately below. Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 0:31
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    I agree that reporting the offense to law enforcement might be a good idea, but I stongly disagree with "By law, you are most likely required to report it to a federal agency, not your supervisor's boss." Most people are not mandatory reporters and most offenses someone witnesses do not require mandatory reporting. The suggestion that the OP would be required to report it to a federal agency is mistaken, because many offenses that require mandatory reporting are state offenses, not federal ones. A much more accurate statement would be "You may be required to report this to law enforcement."
    – Itsme2003
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 20:13
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    "It may sound a little paranoid, but they could conceivably try to pin some sort of blame on you" - no, it's not paranoid. The boss does something edgy. You've told his boss. He in turn, instead of (apparently) taking an action and protecting you as the source, (apparently) exposed you to full backfire. So far, it seems like either the boss'boss doesn't care, or he's into it as well. If that's true, then from their point of view, they either have to make you quit, or make you an acomplice to keep you silent, or put part of the blame on you to mak eyou silent (thinking you wont report yourself) Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 7:58

Something to think about: do you have any reason to believe the boss isn't also doing illegal things?

That's the reason that these answers are not paranoid, and you really really need to talk to a lawyer, or at the very least, an actual whistleblower organization. Because if the boss was "in on it" and doing illegal things alongside your supervisor, you've put yourself in a downright terrible position. Because both of them:

  • Know you're willing to be a whistleblower
  • Know you're trying to whistleblow on crimes they'd be punished for
  • Are willing to do shady/illegal things

... you can bet quite a bit of money that, unless you take some urgent action, that this isn't going to go well. "Framed" sounds so melodramatic, but you can certainly bet that, even if you leave, they'll be floating things like, "Yeah, John Smith? Left a few months back. Terrible employee... and we suspect that he may have been XYZ'ing. Couldn't prove it, but let's just say we're glad he left." Worst case, they simply call the cops and accuse you of XYZ, and provide "evidence" of your crime.

Seriously, at least give a call to the Department of Labor or send them an email.


Given that you are in Pennsylvania, this situation may be covered by the Pennsylvania Whistleblowers Act, which says in part:

“No employer may discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment because the employee or a person acting on behalf of the employee makes a good faith report or is about to report, verbally or in writing, to the employer or appropriate authority an instance of wrongdoing or waste.” 43 P.S. §1423(a).

Numerous Federal laws also contain whistleblower protection clauses, normally related to the specific focus of the law. (For example, the Clean Air Act includes protection for whistleblowers who report violations of that act, but these protections do not extend to other reported violations.)

Many companies also have clauses in their employment handbooks and policies regarding treatment or protection for whistleblowers, as well as investigation of reported issues. For example, my company maintains a Code of Conduct and Ethics that includes clear protection for whistleblowers. Contacting my manager, the HR department, Compliance/Legal, or anonymously calling the Compliance line are all valid avenues to report an issue. This policy also clearly states that the issue will be investigated in confidence (not spread around to other, uninvolved employees) and with zero tolerance for retaliation.

A lawyer familiar with Pennsylvania employment law would be a great help to you, particularly to determine whether this constitutes a violation of Pennsylvania or federal law. However, also check your employment documents to see if they have similar protections, possibly with a compliance department or anonymous reporting line.

  • 10
    The federal Department of Labor has a long list of federal statutes that protect whistleblowers in various scenarios here: whistleblowers.gov/statutes
    – reirab
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 8:36

Get out ASAP, you are marked. Get out and get out now. Document everything they do, everything you do, and see a lawyer as soon as possible. They are aware that their illegal activities have been spotted, and you are a convenient scapegoat. Get all of your evidence to that lawyer, and do as he advises. Failing to do so could possibly make you an accessory after the fact to any illegal activities.

IANAL, which is why I am advising you to see one ASAP

In the future, GO TO A LAWYER FIRST, ALWAYS if you see any illegal activity.

You need to protect yourself.

  • 1
    @user1717828 most take credit, debit, and checks. Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 12:19
  • 6
    @RichardU But many of us don't have the finances around to hire one, which I'm sure is anons point. Going to a lawyer would be my first port of call if I had the money, but if not I'd probably go to some of the internet's knowledge bases and ask around, even if just to be directed to a lawyer I can't afford in the first place. Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 12:40
  • 4
    @RichardU I think you're being well-intentioned but obstinate. Clearly the feedback Always go to a lawyer is not practical for many, perhaps even most, Americans. The underlying reason for that is important for society but off topic here. I would firmly put it next to other high level, impractical advice like Go get a college degree or Diet to lose weight, which are other common technically-correct-but-generally-impractical pieces of advice in the context of the problem. Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 14:37
  • 5
    @user1717828 Just because you are unwilling or unable to do something does not make it impractical. I pulled myself all the way up from being homeless doing these "impractical" things you are grousing about. If you took five minutes to research, you'd know that initial consults with a lawyer are either free, or under 400 dollars. If you don't think it's worth your while to scrounge up 400 dollars to pay a lawyer for a consult, that's on you. Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 14:50
  • 2
    @user1717828 it's not being obstinate, it's experience in doing that exact thing. An employment lawyer charges nothing for an initial consult, notifying law enforcement through your attorney costs about 50-100 dollars. You're not hiring perry mason. Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 14:52

Firstly, the accepted answer is wrong about whistleblowing.

Spotting illegal things and reporting it within the company is more than reasonable as it allows the company to attempt to resolve the situation before courts get involved. Most companies would prefer you whistle blow internally rather than externally as it gives them a chance to do something about it.

Whistleblowing is protected by law. It is illegal for them to treat you unfairly because of this action.

Your actions up to this point have been within your rights and MOST companies would not complain about your actions so far. If the company believed that your call was wrong and that the actions were legal, then the correct thing to do would be to just let the issue be and ignore you.

Some companies may have a dedicated whistle blowing department - in which case you must use this; but you would receive training from the company if this is the case.

You are now in the position though, that your job is at risk, and the law isn't something that these people care about. The first thing to do is to discuss with a lawyer or citizens advice bureau what your next step will be. Collect evidence NOW of any unfair treatment that happens to you because of this event.

  • 9
    If the illegal activity has to do with money laundering in the UK you could actually get into a lot of trouble by "reporting it internally" because if you tip off the perpetrators you are considered complicit
    – Ben
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 19:35
  • 1
    Maybe I have been using the term wrong but I always considered whistle blowing to mean reporting in general, not internally specifically. Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 19:38
  • @Ben the FCA has a whistle blowing department - it's true; but many banks also have a department for whistleblowing which (obviously) must adhere to strict rules. Raising concerns with the manager would not be appropriate as you say, but contacting that whistle blowing department of the firm is still internal.
    – UKMonkey
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 21:04
  • 3
    @UKMonkey I'm referring to this sentence, "Most companies would prefer you whistle blow rather than report directly to police" which gives the impression that whistle blowing is not going to the police. Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 21:27
  • 1
    @CaptainMan fair enough :) corrected.
    – UKMonkey
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 18:11

Just polish your CV and get the hell out. You did the right thing by not accepting to engage in illegal actions. Document every impossible task and everything you do. Make a copy of everything and watch your back until you don't find a new employment.


It’s generally reasonable for boss-squared to discuss issues with your boss. But given some criminal contexts in play, it might not be reasonable in this case.

IANAL I’d first suggest you look into your state’s whistleblower laws and reporting requirements. It could be the case that just knowing laws are getting broken and not reporting them could bring you down as well.

Next, document. Attempt to contact HR. It sounds as though it may fall on deaf ears, but document that you attempted to alert the “internal authorities”. If required by law to report it, you should very likely do so, regardless of in-company consequences. I doubt any whistleblower protection will cause this to be a place you feel comfortable staying in long term, but might at least give you recourse for compensation if you have to be unemployed.

As far as in office, I suspect you need to leave at earliest option. Lay as low as you can until you can, but there are a host of red flags here.

  • Ignoring regulations;
  • Boss-squared airing a sensitive issue to a broad audience;
  • Trivializing a serious complaint;
  • Human Resources inaccessibility to the human resources.

MAYBE boss-squared realizes he’s erred but it sounds like your boss now has reason to be wary of you and his boss supports him.


Some people pointed out you don't react the same way if your boss is using Winrar without paying or if he killed someone. That's an important point. So if by any chances, you are in danger, stop reading this immediately and go to the police.

If your boss is giving you more work because you reported him, chances are he's trying to bully you out of your job. It seems his boss is not on your side either. What can you do? Let's try to sort out the different options you have. Be careful to no to do yourself anything illegal. You would put yourself in risk by doing so. Chances are those guys are looking actively for a way to get rid of you. Don't offer them one by yourself.

  • Document what's happening. The illegal actions of your boss, your actions in order to let his boss know and their retaliation by bullying you. Try to get evidences of those things.
  • Go talk to a lawyer. Explain him everything.
  • Look for another job. Things are not looking good at all, and a new job would be the best way to solve the situation.

That's called retaliation and it's also illegal, so you can sue the every loving sh*t out of your employer now. Get a lawyer. I'm not a lawyer, but I think you'll win this lawsuit if you have any of this documented. Make sure you get a lawyer now though. You really do need one. Don't get one that works for your company either.

That being said, finding a new job would be much easier. If you do actually sue, you're probably going to have to find a new job anyway.

  • 1
    More to the point, any successful suit would take years to resolve, the OP will need a job while that shakes down, even if he eventually ends up with any sort of compensation at all.
    – user90842
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 21:12

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