Recent New Mexico whistleblower case leads to $340,000 settlement

It takes courage to stand up to your employer when something is not right. Whistleblower cases often come about when guidelines are ignored, clear violations take place and employee concerns rejected. In the most egregious cases, those alarmed employees even lose their jobs.

Such scenarios are retaliation, which is illegal. Take, for instance, a recent case involving two state of New Mexico workers who complained about how their department oversaw a prominent case involving four vulnerable and abused children.

State took custody, then returned abused children to parents

In October, New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) agreed to a $340,000 settlement in a whistleblower case involving two former employees. The two women – one of whom was a decadelong employee – said retaliation occurred because they disagreed how the department managed the case.

The case came to notice in 2019 when two parents and four children were panhandling outside a retail store in Hobbs, a southeastern city near the Texas border. Authorities soon charged the parents with child abuse, and the CYFD took temporary custody of the children. However, the state later returned the children to their parents.

Hostile work environment, forced out of job

The two whistleblowers claimed that although department officials knew the children’s parents were unfit, they still returned the youngsters to them. The plaintiffs said CYFD officials did so because they did not want to cope with the complicated case, which involved at least two other out-of-state jurisdictions, the family’s disappearance and the abandonment of one child.

The former employees also claimed that the department obstructed the investigation regarding the family’s May disappearance from New Mexico, causing a slowdown in authorities’ search for the missing children.

The decadelong employee said she faced a hostile work environment upon coming forward with her complaints. The other plaintiff claimed the department terminated her because she declined “to lie in court about the case.”

The law is on your side

In this specific case, the two employees cited that their employer forced them to choose between keeping their jobs and acting with integrity. If you become the target of workplace retaliation after standing up for what you know is right, document every incident related to your situation. The emotional toll may be significant, but you have the law on your side.

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