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Whistleblower Protections

A "whistleblower" is an employee who reports a violation of the law by their employer. Whistleblower protections come from several different sources. The federal government has laws protecting you from retaliation for reporting a violation. Many states have whistleblower protections as well. Many states also acknowledge a common-law claim. This offers further protection to employees who face retaliation.

Whistleblower Protection Laws

Several federal laws protect whistleblowers, including:

The Whistleblower Protection Act protects federal workers who report government problems. There's also the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This law protects corporate employees who report financial misconduct and gross waste of funds. Lastly, there's the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. The WPEA strengthened protections for whistleblowers.

There's also the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). The MSPB oversees and protects the rights of federal employees. Lastly, there's the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). The OSH Act shields workers who report safety concerns or violations from retaliation. It ensures that employees can speak up about workplace hazards without punishment. These laws show that Congress wants people to feel safe when they speak up about bad things happening at work.

Protected Whistleblower Activity

Whistleblowers are legally protected when they report wrongdoing in the workplace. This is protected activity. Protected activity can include:

  • Disclosing violations of law, regulations, or company policies
  • Reporting instances of fraud, waste, or abuse of authority

Whistleblowers are also protected when they take part in investigations. Common things that whistleblowers report include:

  • Financial misconduct
  • Safety violations
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Environmental violations
  • Public health concerns.

Qualifying for Whistleblower Protection

Five agencies under the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provide whistleblower protection. Those agencies are:

To qualify for protection, a person must have a good faith belief that their employer is violating the law. They must then report the issue to their employer or the relevant federal agency. Protection remains regardless of investigation outcomes. If retaliation happens, the whistleblower should file a complaint within 30 days of the incident.

Types of Workers Protected by Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower laws cover employees, contractors, subcontractors, and volunteers. It doesn't matter whether you're a full-time employee or a part-time worker. The law may entitle you to whistleblower protections.

Whistleblower laws extend protection to a diverse array of workers, including:

  • Federal employees
  • Public employees
  • Government employees
  • Private-sector employees
  • Law enforcement
  • Former employees

Types of Whistleblower Retaliation

Whistleblower retaliation manifests in various ways. It includes termination, demotion, suspension, or denial of benefits or promotions. Employers may also engage in reprisal by creating a hostile work environment. Retaliation can be subtle. It usually undermines the whistleblower's professional reputation or job responsibilities.

Whistleblowers must document any adverse actions they experience. They should also file a retaliation complaint immediately. Retaliation is a violation of law. It may warrant legal action to address the abuse of authority. A whistleblower who experiences retaliation can get appropriate remedies. Remedies can include reinstatement, back pay, or compensation for damages.

Learn More About Whistleblower Protections by Speaking to a Lawyer

You should speak with an employment law attorney if your employer is retaliating against you. An attorney can offer helpful legal advice. They can also explain your options and protect your legal rights as a whistleblower.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified whistleblower law attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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