“Whistleblowing” is a term for when an employee reports, or “blows the whistle,” on their employer for breaking the law. Typically, they will report to a law enforcement agency, and cannot be fired for doing so under whistleblowing laws. The following are common reasons whistleblowing occurs:
It is important to note, that a whistleblowing employee may still be fired for other reasons not related to whistleblowing. For instance, if the employee has a history of absences or tardiness, the employer can terminate without violating any whistleblower laws.
Federal laws protect workers who speak up about an employer who is breaking the law. Viewed as the eyes and ears of workplace safety, and the witnesses to questionable behavior, whistleblowing employees are afforded immunity against retaliation and termination after reporting the employer to law enforcement. If they are terminated because of whistleblowing, they have the right to sue their employer.
For those employers who have to make claims to a federal agency, the government can investigate and sue an employer if it is found that those claims are falsified. If any employees assist with the investigation, they are protected against termination under the False Claims Act, also known as the “Lincoln Law.” If an employee was terminated, the employee must show the following to prove retaliatory termination:
You should consult an attorney to help determine whether you were illegally mistreated. Generally, answering yes to the following questions shows a connection between the whistleblowing event and the violation of whistleblower laws:
If the reported event was not illegal, but the whistleblowing employee reasonably believed it was illegal, then they are still protected against any retaliation from their company, including termination.
The False Claims Act provides whistleblowers to be awarded a percentage of what the government wins in its lawsuit against the employer. Initially, it was created to help stop fraud in Medicare and other government programs, and provided an incentive to potential whistleblowers who could experience backlash from the employer.
If any whistleblower was wrongfully terminated for reporting their employer’s violations of the law, they may be entitled to:
Depending on the case, whistleblowers can receive anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of what the government collects from its lawsuit. For instance, if the lawsuit involved the IRS and penalties exceeded $2 million, the whistleblower could receive 15-30% of those penalties. Whatever legal fees the whistleblower incurs, they will be paid by the government.
If the case settles, the whistleblower will usually receive a smaller sum, but they will receive it much faster than if they had to wait years for the case to go to trial.
Whistleblower claims should be reported to an attorney or government official immediately. If the claim were to become public knowledge, the claim would likely be denied, and no protections offered.
There are numerous other whistleblower laws, but most don’t allow the employee to bring an immediate lawsuit for wrongful termination. Usually, the complaint is handled administratively, and filed with OSHA or the EEOC. If it is not resolved, then an administrative judge may be appointed.
Blowing the whistle on an employer is a serious endeavor, and if you were wrongfully terminated, it could be complicated to prove. Consult an employment attorney immediately to discuss your best course of action. An experienced lawyer will help you build your case, collect evidence, and represent your best interests in court.
Last Modified: 04-16-2018 10:57 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.