Whistleblowers are people who identify actual or potential crimes in their organization and come forward to tell the government regulators and law enforcement about them.
Federal whistleblower laws establish benefits to becoming a whistleblower. If the government manages to recover any financial damages or fines as a result of their investigation, the whistleblower is entitled to a share of that money.
However, whistleblowers are also vulnerable to potential retaliation by their employers on a number of levels. As a result, both federal and state whistleblower law provides protection against this kind of retaliation.
Varying sets of laws
What makes this complex is that there is not one single law that provides this protection. Instead, there are different laws and each depend on the type of crime or fraud that the employee is trying to expose. For example, a person complaining that a company is dumping pollutants into the water would be protected as a whistleblower as part of the Clean Water Act, but an employee who wanted to make a whistleblower claim about fraud in the workplace would fall under the Occupational Health and Safety Act’s jurisdiction.
Since there is a lot at risk in terms of employer retaliation, many whistleblowers choose to secure a lawyer before they step forward and become publicly identified.
Whistleblowing is risky, but there are laws in place to protect whistleblowers and incentivize them for coming forward. This provides a method for insiders to observe and report on criminal activity that otherwise would go unnoticed because it takes place in the confines of a nonpublic workplace.