About Retaliation

Retaliation is an adverse action taken against you by a department or another City employee because you are a Cooperating Employee.

A  Cooperating Employee is a City employee who;

  • Made a good faith report of improper governmental action to Ethics or to their supervisor or other person in their chain of command; or,
  • Cooperated in an inquiry or investigation of a report; or,
  • Was mistakenly believed to have reported improper governmental action or cooperated in an inquiry or investigation.

Adverse action is a significant unfavorable act that affects your employment. It can be taken by your department or another employee. The action happens after you made a report or cooperated in a Whistleblower investigation.

Some examples of adverse action are:

  • Negative performance evaluations or a department taking unwarranted disciplinary actions:
  • Refusing you an out-of-class or promotional opportunity or changing your work location or work hours: or,
  • Bullying by a superior or supervisor or a superior or supervisor encouraging your co-workers to act in a hostile manner toward you.

No. Only those adverse acts that were taken - in whole or in part - because you were a Cooperating Employee fit the definition of retaliation.



Contact Ethics and Elections for more information regarding retaliation under the Whistleblower Code. 


How the Retaliation Claim Process Works

Yes, there is a time limitation of 6 months to file a claim with Ethics.  The 6 month limitation begins the day the adverse action was taken against you.

For instance: You received a negative performance evaluation. You believe this happened because you stepped forward to report improper governmental action. A retaliation complaint must be filed with Ethics within 6 months of the day you received the evaluation.


Ethics has 14 days to evaluate your claim. This evaluation is to determine if your claim falls under the Whistleblower Code.  Ethics will contact you after this review.

If Ethics determines your claim does not fall under the Whistleblower Code, Ethics will take no further action on your claim. Any further action by you cannot be based on the rights or remedies in the City's Whistleblower Code. There may be some other law that applies; however, you may want to get legal advice.

Ethics will objectively and independently investigate the retaliation claim.  If the investigation finds reasonable cause to believe retaliation has occurred, then several things can happen. If Ethics does not find reasonable cause, under the Whistleblower Code you may file a private law suit.

When an investigation finds reasonable cause to believe retaliation has occurred - there are three options under the Whistleblower Code:

  • Settlement Conference: The parties are asked to meet and discuss the situation and reach an agreement that is acceptable to you, the Ethics Commission Executive Director and your department. This process is overseen by an independent mediator.
  • Administrative Hearing: The Executive Director can file a complaint with the City Hearing Examiner. The Hearing Examiner would be asked to determine if retaliation took place. Once the Executive Director shows that you fit the definition of a Cooperating Employee, the department is required to show by a preponderance of evidence that your status as a Cooperating Employee was not a contributing factor in the department's decision to take the adverse action. In the end, if the Hearing Examiner finds that retaliation did take place, monetary damages and other actions can be ordered.
  • Superior Court Case: You can file a case in King County Superior Court. You will need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the adverse employment action was taken, in part, because you were a Cooperating Employee. If you are successful, monetary damages and other actions can be ordered.

If the Hearing Examiner finds retaliation did occur, they may order the City to pay actual damages and order other actions they feel necessary to fulfill the purpose of the Whistleblower Code. The Hearing Examiner may also order payment up to $20,000 for emotional distress and up to $20,000 for attorney fees.

In Superior Court, if you prove retaliation did occur, the City can be required to pay actual damages and other relief the judge believes is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the Whistleblower Code. The award can include up to $20,000 for emotional distress, the costs of bringing the lawsuit and all reasonable attorney fees.


Ethics and Elections Commission

Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 4010, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94729, Seattle, WA, 98124-4729
Phone: (206) 684-8500

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The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) helps foster public confidence in the integrity of Seattle City government by providing education, training, and enforcement of the City's Code of Ethics and Whistle blower Code.