Are there Protections from Retaliation for Whistleblowing?

A man in a suit holds a sign over his face that reads

You may have heard the following names: 

  • Christopher Wylie (Cambridge Analytica and Facebook privacy violations)
  • Sherron Watkins (helped expose Enron Corps for lies and fraud)
  • Codename Deepthroat or Mark Felt (exposed the Watergate Scandal leading to President Nixon’s resignation)
  • Frank Serpico (exposed New York Police Department corruption)
  • Edward Snowden (released documents about NSA surveillance programs)

Whistleblowers have been in the news much more recently. With this important topic coming up so often, let’s take some time to go over what a whistleblower is and what counts as retaliation against them.

What does it mean to Whistleblow?

A whistleblower is one who informs on the morally or legally wrong behaviors of others. Another form whistleblowing can take is the release of that information either to a larger group or the general public. Whistleblowing occurs in business when you report on wrongdoing you see at work. Knowledge of this wrongdoing must be in the interest of the public - in other words; it must affect others. 

There are legal protections for whistleblowers. Most importantly, they need to be treated fairly and not fired for raising questions or pointing out wrongdoing. Whistleblowers can disclose issues from the past, those happening currently, or those that will happen soon. 

Who the Law Protects in Whistleblower Cases

The following workers are classified as workers and can bring up whistleblower cases:

  • An employee of a company, non-profit, organization, or government agency
  • A member or partner of a limited liability partnership (LLP)
  • A trainee including student teachers and interns

Note: confidentiality or gag clauses are not valid in most whistleblower cases. 

Retaliation Against Whistleblowers

Many whistleblowers experience retaliation for disclosing proprietary information. If an employee has been fired or experienced negative actions through a manager, supervisor, or another worker in leadership due to exposing information, they experienced retaliation. 

Retaliation for whistleblowing is illegal because it discourages disclosing wrongdoing. Some examples of negative or adverse actions include the following:

  • Firing
  • Demoting
  • Denying promotion
  • Denying pay for completed work
  • Denying benefits
  • Failing to hire
  • Blacklisting - making it difficult for an employee to gain other work
  • Constructive discharge - quitting after the employer makes working conditions intolerable

Protections for Whistleblowers

Employees should not have to experience retaliation for standing up against unlawful behavior at work. There are many laws that protect whistleblowers, including the following:

  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act - Protects whistleblowers disclosing information about SEC violations
  • Taxpayer First Act - Protects whistleblowers about tax fraud
  • Dodd-Frank Act - Protects whistleblowing to the CFTO or the SEC
  • Consumer Financial Protection Act - Protects whistleblowers that impact consumer finances
  • Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act - Protects whistleblowers impacting consumer product safety

You should not be punished for doing the right thing. Make sure to engage an experienced whistleblower attorney to ensure your rights have protections. The whistleblower lawyers at Pitt, McGehee, Palmer, & Rivers have the skills, insights, and experience to navigate the complicated legal process of employee or contractor rights to get you what you the justice you deserve. 

Give the legal professionals at Pitt, McGehee, Palmer, & Rivers a call today at (248) 939-5081 to discuss your case.

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