I cannot tell you how much you can sue for, however, if you want to recover anything, hire a lawyer. Your opponents in this matter are pros at working within this system. You are not.
With your story and your tape recorder in you hand, you will be steamrolled and left slack-jawed with nothing.
After thoroughly reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of your situation, your attorney can provide you with some insight into the potential value of your claims, if any.
Please note that this answer is generic in nature and does not constitute legal advice with regard to any particular circumstances or facts and does not establish an attorney client relationship.
I am a California attorney and not eligible to give legal advice in your state. My comments are for information only, based on federal law and general legal principles. YOUR STATE MAY HAVE ITS OWN LAWS THAT PROVIDE SIMILAR OR GREATER PROTECTION. If I refer to your state's laws, that only means I did a quick Internet search and found something that appeared relevant. You should not rely on any comment I make regarding your state's law. You MUST check with an attorney licensed in your state.
The answer to your question will turn on specific facts. The Avvo board is not really set up to handle the kind of detailed analysis that is needed in your situation. Avvo works best for short, specific questions that allow for short, specific answers. Perhaps more importantly, anyone can read the discussions on Avvo so they are not confidential. Your employer or whomever you are in a dispute with can read everything written here.
The advice to retain your own attorney is good advice. You cannot hope to handle anything of this magnitude on your own, including an EEOC mediation. The EEOC is not your representative. A mediator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) www.eeoc.gov has one client – the United States of America. Some EEOC mediators are great and will do their best to protect you rights even though they are not your advocate. Some EEOC mediators stink and care more about closing the case than they
Because the EEOC has a particular mission and because it is not representing you, if it turns out your interests and those of the EEOC clash, the EEOC mediator will first and foremost make sure the agency’s goals are carried out, not yours.
Also, the EEOC will only consider issues relevant to laws the EEOC enforces, such as discrimination laws. It will not consider such things as employer liability under state law (which in some states, like California, is substantially more than under federal law), wage and hour violations, mutuality in the settlement agreement, circumstances under which you might have to return the money, the language of the settlement agreement (which could have all kinds of "gotchas" that the EEOC doesn't notice or doesn't deal with), and more.
In addition, EEOC mediators most often handle low-value cases because that is what ends up in their offices. They handle high-value cases far less frequently, and even less frequently handle high-value cases where the charging party doesn’t have an attorney. If you show up without an attorney, the mediator may interpret your case as low-value, even if it isn’t. Of course the mediator may learn the value of your case during the mediation, but why start off with such a large obstacle?
Similarly, without an attorney, the employer probably won't take you or your case seriously, and may be able to take advantage of you. No one is watching your back if you don't have your own attorney.
Consider that the employer most likely has an attorney or has consulted with its attorney. Even if the employer doesn't have an attorney, it usually has human resources personnel who have been down this route before and know far better than you do how to use the system to its own advantage.
It is nearly always the case that a charging party will do better overall with an attorney, even taking into consideration the attorney's fees portion of the recovery.
Also, with respect to your possible whistleblower case, please see my Avvo guide: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/whistleblowers-and-their-rights?published=true
*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***