Whistleblower Law


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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

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.


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