Whistleblower law is related to Wrongful Termination law and includes the statutes that protect employees from being terminated or otherwise discriminated against in retaliation for exposing suspected dishonest or illegal activities or wrongdoings, that violate the public trust, occurring in their place of employment. Although the term “whistleblower” is generally associated with government workers who report government fraud, these laws actually offer protection to employees of public or private companies, as well as government agencies. Some of these statutes also make provisions for monetary awards for employees who expose an employer who is guilty of these types of violations.
The federal Whistle Blower Protection Act (WPA) protects most federal employees who work in the executive branch. It also requires that federal agencies take appropriate action. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) was created by this act and is tasked with investigating complaints by the federal employees who claim they were punished for blowing the whistle on their employer. Violations reported include illegal activity, gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; abuse of authority; and actions which represent a significant and explicit danger to public health or safety.
The False Claims Act is another federal statute that protects whistleblowers who don’t work for the government, but are alleging fraud against the government by federal contractors. It also provides for a financial award to the employee reporting the fraudulent activity by way of a Qui Tam claim.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the organization responsible for administering the provisions of various federal whistleblower protection acts and regulations. To file a complaint with OSHA under one of these statutes, the activity the employee engaged in must be that which has been identified as a protected activity by any of the statutes; his/her employer must have been aware of the activity; and the employer must have subjected the employee to an undesirable action which was at least partially motivated by the protected activity. Timely reporting is an important factor for the successful filing of most whistleblower retaliation complaints. OSHA has regional and area office located throughout the United States.
Most individual states have also enacted their own whistleblower laws, which protect state, public and/or private employees. Unlike their federal counterparts however, these state levels generally do not provide for the payment of compensation to whistleblowers, but instead concentrate on the prevention of retaliatory action toward the whistleblower. (See US Whistleblower Law for a link to a list of individual state whistleblower laws.) Federal law will have precedence over a state law when a conflict occurs.
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Articles on HG.org Related to Whistleblower Law
- Can My Employer Force Me to Break the Law?Due to the difference in the levels between employers and employees, an employer may sometimes try to take advantage of this greater power by requesting an employee to commit some illegal act to further business or personal interests.
- How to File an Unpaid Wage ClaimIndividuals who have not received the money that they are due for the work that they have already completed may choose to pursue an unpaid wage claim. This process may be completed through a state agency or a private cause of action.
- Federal Labor LawsEmployees in the United States are protected by a number of key regulations. In addition to any laws on the state level, employees are also protected by more than 180 federal laws administered by the Department of Labor alone. Here are some of the more common forms of protection.
- Mitigation of Damages in Employment Case in CaliforniaAs a general rule, civil law strives to make an injured party whole, no more and no less. Courts will reduce an award of damages where they determine that the plaintiff failed to take basic steps after the injury to minimize the harm suffered. This responsibility borne by the plaintiff is commonly known as the duty to mitigate damages, and it is a fundamental issue in any claim for wrongful termination.
- If You See Your Company Polluting, Who Do You Call?It is a sad fact, but every day thousands of companies around the world violate laws designed to protect the environment in order to cut costs and increase profits. If you suspect your company is doing so, or if you have witnessed the pollution yourself, you may be wondering what you can do to prevent it and whether there are any laws in place to protect you from the company's wrath after you do so.
- Fibromyalgia Patient Sues Employer after Being Fired for Her DisabilityA Minnesota woman with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis recently received $30,000 in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit that proved her employer violated the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by firing her because of her medical condition.
- Court to Rule in Nuke Site Whistleblower CaseA federal appellate court has overturned a district court’s decision to dismiss a whistleblower case filed by a man who says he was fired after he brought attention to safety and health risks concerning the nuclear site where he was employed. The court also ruled that the plaintiff is entitled to a jury trial.
- Wrongful Termination CaseA tax lawyer who worked at the Vanguard Group in Malvern, New York, was terminated from his position after consistently warning his employer that they were considerably underpaying on its taxes. The unlawful practices resulted in Vanguard cheating the US Government out of more than a billion dollars throughout the last several years. Some of the money saved from the illegal tax practices was used to enhance bosses’ salaries.
- Office Depot Whistleblowers CaseA whistle blower complaint filed by an Office Depot employee has resulted in a large settlement for the state of California.
- Three Important, Commonly Misunderstood Concepts in California Employment LawDefining and discussing three of the most important and commonly misunderstood terms in California employment law - wrongful termination, discrimination, and harassment/hostile work environment.
- All Employment and Labor Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Employment and Labor including: discrimination, employee benefits, employees rights, ERISA, human resources law, labor relations, outsourcing, sexual harassment, whistleblower, workers compensation and wrongful termination.
Whistleblower Law - US
- False Claims Act
The False Claims Act contains qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions. Qui tam is a unique mechanism in the law that allows citizens with evidence of fraud against government contracts and programs to sue, on behalf of the government, in order to recover the stolen funds.
- IRS Whistle Blower - Informant Award
The IRS Whistleblower Office pays money to people who blow the whistle on persons who fail to pay the tax that they owe. If the IRS uses information provided by the whistleblower, it can award the whistleblower up to 30 percent of the additional tax, penalty and other amounts it collects.
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
A landmark whistleblower law also called the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002. It protects employees of publicly-traded corporations from retaliation for reporting alleged violations of any rule or regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or any provision of Federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.
- State Whistleblower Laws
Table of Whistleblower laws on the state level.
- Whistleblower and Retaliation Protections
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) and a number of other laws protect workers against retaliation for complaining to their employers, unions, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthful conditions in the workplace, environmental problems, certain public safety hazards, and certain violations of federal provisions concerning securities fraud, as well as for engaging in other related protected activities. Whistleblowers may not be transferred, denied a raise, have their hours reduced, or be fired or punished in any other way because they have exercised any right afforded to them under one of the laws that protect whistleblowers.
- Whistleblower Disclosures - US Office of Special Counsel
OSC’s Disclosure Unit (DU) serves as a safe conduit for the receipt and evaluation of whistleblower disclosures from federal employees, former employees, and applicants for federal employment. 5 U.S.C. § 1213.
- Whistleblower Law - Overview
In 1863, the False Claims Act was written to provide a civil penalty "of double the amount of damages suffered by the government, plus a $2,000 forfeiture for each false claim submitted." The law was "enacted to prosecute Civil War manufacturers who substituted sawdust for gunpowder in Union army supplies."
- Whistleblower Laws
This site provides information about False Claims Act qui tam statutes that allow whistleblowers to actually step into the shoes of the government and seek damages on behalf of the government. These False Claims Acts or “Qui Tam Laws” exist at the federal level and have been adopted by 20 states. As the Supreme Court of the United States noted in Rockwell International Corp. v. United States, 127 S.Ct. 1397 (2007),
- Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989
Act that amended title 5, United States Code, to strengthen the protections available to Federal employees against prohibited personnel practices, and for other purposes.
- Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007
To amend title 5, United States Code, to clarify which disclosures of information are protected from prohibited personnel practices; to require a statement in nondisclosure policies, forms, and agreements to the effect that such policies, forms, and agreements are consistent with certain disclosure protections, and for other purposes.
Whistleblower Law - Europe
- French Whistleblowing Policy
The CNIL was initially opposed to whistleblowing policies but changed its position in 2005. This change in stance permitted the implementation of whistleblowing schemes for relevant French companies affiliated to US companies that are subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), a US federal law providing standards for all US public company boards, management and public accounting firms. The SOX also contains certain protection provisions for whistleblowers.
- Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 - UK
An Act to protect individuals who make certain disclosures of information in the public interest; to allow such individuals to bring action in respect of victimisation; and for connected purposes.
Whistleblower Law - International
- United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)
In its eight Chapters and 71 Articles, the UNCAC obliges the States Parties to implement a wide and detailed range of anti-corruption measures affecting their laws, institutions and practices. These measures aim to promote the prevention, detection and sanctioning of corruption, as well as the cooperation between State Parties on these matters. The UNCAC is unique as compared to other conventions, not only in its global coverage but also in the extensiveness and detail of its provisions.
Organizations Related to Whistleblower Laws
- Government Accountability Project (GAP)
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a 30-year-old nonprofit public interest group that promotes government and corporate accountability by advancing occupational free speech, defending whistleblowers, and empowering citizen activists. We pursue this mission through our Nuclear Safety, International Reform, Corporate Accountability, Food & Drug Safety, and Federal Employee/National Security programs. GAP is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization.
- National Whistleblowers Center
Since 1988, the NWC and attorneys associated with it have supported whistleblowers in the courts and before Congress and achieved victories for environmental protection, government contract fraud, nuclear safety and government and corporate accountability.