Whistleblower Laws: The Laws Protecting Whistleblowers and Their Rights
A whistleblower is a person who exposes misconduct or illegal activities occurring within an organization. Though most people assume that all whistleblowers are employees of the offending company or entity, whistleblowers can also be suppliers, customers, contractors, or anybody else who learns of the illegal activities, whether through observation or by being told about it.
Coming forward to report these kinds of wrongdoing take tremendous courage, especially if the whistleblower is an employee who is economically dependent upon the company that they are exposing for both their livelihood and their health insurance. In order to encourage people to come forward, several laws have been established to protect whistleblowers and their rights. These laws are specifically designed to prevent retaliation.
Whistleblower Laws Protect Against Retaliation
In most whistleblower cases, the law that is being reported broken is designed to protect the public. Whether the specific law focuses on public health and safety, protecting tax dollars, or a violation of the public trust, the law itself generally provides a remedy for the protection of those who disclose information about it being broken. The laws that include these remedies that are most commonly used include:
- Environmental laws
- Corporate fraud/Sarbanes-Oxley
- Fraud by employers with government contracts/False Claims Act
There are several federal environmental laws that extend protection to employee whistleblowers. These include the Clean Air Act and the Water Pollution Control Act. Employees are protected if they contact the Environmental Protection Agency or other enforcement agencies. They are also protected from refusing to participate in or objecting to illegal activities.
There two corporate fraud laws that are most commonly reported broken are the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which makes publicly traded companies’ corporate officers personally responsible for certifications about their company’s finances, and the Dodd-Frank Act, which was designed to restore responsibility and accountability to the financial system. Both laws provide specific protections, as well as rewards, for whistleblowers who provide information about violations.
Employers with Government Contracts
When a government contractor is defrauding the federal government, they are stealing from the American public and the taxpayer. The False Claims Act was created to allow anybody who learns of this type of fraud to report it and file suit against the wrongdoer, either with or without the government’s support. The whistleblower is then able to join in the proceeds of the lawsuit. Examples of this type of fraud include Medicare and Medicaid fraud, falsification of information about quality or cost of items sold to the government, and charging the government for costs not related to a federal grant.
There are many other laws that are in place specifically to protect those who have reported wrongdoing. Violations of retaliatory laws include:
- Firing or laying off
- Denying overtime or promotion
- Denial of benefits
- Failure to hire or rehire
- Making threats
- Reassignment affecting prospects for promotion
- Reducing pay or hours
If you are aware of fraud or dishonesty within an organization and are interested in filing a whistleblower lawsuit, you need legal counsel and representation from an experienced whistleblower law firm. The attorneys of Bochetto & Lentz have a successful record of pursuing these complex cases while ensuring that our clients have the protections that they are entitled to. Call us today for more information.
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