Federal Laws for Whistleblowers

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What Is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing refers to a person, usually an employee, that “blows the whistle” or reports their employer’s illegal or fraudulent actions to an outside agency or the government. Whistleblowers are protected by a wide array of state and federal laws. Employers are not allowed to retaliate against employees who act as whistleblowers by firing them or denying them benefits. 

Which Federal Laws Protect Whistleblowers?

Federal law regarding whistleblowers has been described as a “patchwork of laws” because the various regulations and statutes are scattered over a variety of employment law areas. Here are some of the major laws that govern and protect whistleblowers:  

Which Law Do I Rely on to Report My Employer for Misconduct?

You have several options, depending on the nature of the employment. If you are in a corporate setting, you will likely be filing under the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). If the complaint is about the federal government, you will likely be filing your claim according to the False Claims Act or the No-FEAR Act.

Can I File a Lawsuit Immediately If My Employer Has Retaliated against Me?

In general, no. Be aware that you will usually be required to submit your claim to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) before you are allowed to file a civil lawsuit in a federal court. OSHA is a federal agency that hears cases regarding discrimination and other employer misconduct. Cases must be formally filed with OSHA 180 days after the employee learns of the retaliation. 
In the event that an employer does retaliate against you for being a whistleblower, you may be able to recover for lost expenses such as back pay and may be reinstated. 
The usual route for relief is:

Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?

An employment lawyer can be a great help in whistleblowing claims. They can help you prepare the necessary documents for filing a report. Also, in the event that your employer does retaliate against you, it is good if the lawyer is already familiar with your case. Be sure to make detailed accounts of the employer misconduct, as well as any incidents of retaliation against you.

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Last Modified: 06-26-2014 09:52 AM PDT

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