Though whistleblowers have been very much in the news in recent days, they are not a new development in the legal world. In fact, the first whistleblower law was passed back in 1863 to provide protections for employees to come forward and speak out against fraud perpetrated by their employer. Since that time additional protections have been added, but all have built on the original law created by Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War.
Back in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln became aware that military contractors were defrauding the federal government. In an effort to empower those who were aware of the theft, he promoted and Congress passed the False Claims Act of 1863, which encouraged employees to come forward and report overcharging of products or the provision of defective products and provided 15 to 30 percent of any monies recovered as a result of their report. The employees were protected against being fired for providing the tip.
Following the passage of this law, which was created for private individuals, additional laws were created specifically for government workers, including the Lloyd-La Follette Act of 1912 which guaranteed the same type of rights and protections for federal employees, allowing them to contact members of Congress to report wrongdoing by government contractors. The act also allowed federal employees to become union members while distinguishing between whistleblowing and releasing unauthorized classified information.
Following the enactment of these laws, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 gave additional protections to federal employees and the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 created additional rights and rewards for private-sector employees. The newer laws also provided much more clarity on the subject of protection from retaliation, not only making it unlawful for whistleblowers to be punished but also providing them with the ability to pursue compensation where they have been the victims of retaliation.
Today, employees who become aware of wrongdoing in a variety of settings have the ability to come forward to the appropriate parties and report what they have observed. Over the years stringent requirements and guidelines have been established to ensure that reporters’ privacy is protected and offering them the ability to pursue whistleblower actions on behalf of the government in cases where the government elects not to pursue an investigation on their own. If you are aware of wrongdoing that is defrauding the government or which goes against American laws or values, you may be eligible to file a whistleblower lawsuit. Contact us today to speak to one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys.