Whistleblowers play a crucial role in holding large entities, such as multi-billion dollar corporations and the U.S. government, responsible for their wrongdoing. These individuals often risk their careers and sometimes their well-being to expose the wrongdoing or illegal activities of the rich and powerful. They serve as a check and balance on corporations and government entities, helping to ensure transparency and accountability.
But being a whistleblower can be a risky endeavor, which is why whistleblowers need to understand the protections that are available to them. As whistleblower attorneys, we at Barrett & Farahany have seen firsthand the impact of these protections and want to share our knowledge with you.
What is a Whistleblower?
Before delving into the specifics of whistleblower protections, it’s important to understand what exactly a whistleblower is and what they do. A whistleblower is someone who reports or exposes illegal, unethical, or dangerous activities within their organization. This can include anything from fraud and corruption to safety violations and environmental hazards. They don’t have to be directly employed by the entity they are reporting. They can be a contractor or some sort of temporary employee.
Protections for Whistleblowers in the United States
In recognition of the importance of whistleblowers, there are several laws and regulations in place to protect these people from retaliation by their employers. These protections include:
- The False Claims Act: This federal law allows people to file lawsuits on behalf of the government against companies engaged in fraudulent activities. Whistleblowers who report these frauds can receive a percentage of the funds recovered by the government.
- The Sarbanes-Oxley Act: This law protects employees of publicly traded companies from retaliation for reporting violations of securities laws or other illegal activities. This protects them even if they are proven wrong about what they were blowing the whistle on.
- The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Enacted in response to the 2008 financial crisis, this law includes provisions that protect whistleblowers who report violations of securities laws or regulations.
- The Whistleblower Protection Act: This law protects federal employees from retaliation for reporting misconduct, waste, or abuse within their agencies.
Enforcement of Whistleblower Protections
One common question that arises is, “Who enforces whistleblower laws?” In most cases, the responsibility falls on government agencies such as:
- The Department of Labor
- The Securities and Exchange Commission
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
These agencies investigate claims of retaliation and can take action against employers who violate whistleblower protections.
However, it’s important to note that not all whistleblowing cases fall under the purview of these agencies. In some instances, people may need to seek legal representation from a whistleblower attorney to protect their rights and seek justice.
How to Seek Whistleblower Protection
If you are considering blowing the whistle on illegal or unethical activities within your organization, it’s crucial to understand the proper steps to protect yourself. These include:
- Documenting any evidence or information related to the wrongdoing
- Consulting with a whistleblower attorney who can advise you on the best course of action and help protect your rights
- Reporting the misconduct to the proper authorities
- Reporting the misconduct internally, following any company policies or procedures
In some cases, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit to seek whistleblower protections and compensation for any damages or losses suffered as a result of retaliation.
Contact the Employment Law Attorneys at Barrett & Farahany
Whistleblowers are essential in maintaining integrity and accountability within our society. If you have information about illegal or unethical activities within your organization, it’s important to understand that there are protections available to you. These protections and an experienced attorney will help you take the necessary steps to ensure your rights are safeguarded.
At Barrett & Farahany, we are dedicated to protecting whistleblowers and fighting for their rights. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help guide you through this process.